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Physical Education Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

1. Can school districts eliminate or reduce the day/time requirement for physical education?

No. Education Law 803 requires instruction in physical education and instructs the Board of Regents to adopt rules on how this must be achieved. Commissioner's Regulation 135 are those rules. School districts are required by Education Law and Commissioner's regulations to implement a physical education program that meets or exceeds the specified instructional requirements.

2. What are the New York State requirements for physical education?

All students in K-12 must attend and participate in a physical education program.

All pupils in grades K-3 shall attend and participate in physical education on a daily basis.

120 minutes per calendar week exclusive of any time that may be required for dressing and showering for K-6 buildings.

All pupils in grades 4-6 shall attend and participate in physical education not less than three times per week.

All pupils in grades 7-12 shall attend and participate in physical education for not less than three times per week in one semester, and not less than two times per week in the other semester.

3. Are there any waivers or exemptions for physical education?

No. All pupils shall attend and participate. Individual medical certificates of limitations must indicate the area of the program in which the pupil may participate.

School district plans must indicate steps to be taken to insure that each pupil meets the requirement for participation in their physical education program.

4. Must students earn high school credit in physical education?

Yes. Students entering grade 9 until graduation must earn the equivalent of two units of credit in physical education to be eligible to receive a diploma.

¼ credits are earned per semester for a total of eight semesters (grades 9-12). This accumulates to 2 units of credit necessary to receive a diploma.

A student who completes all diploma requirements in fewer than eight semesters, is not required to continue enrollment in high school for the sole purpose of meeting the physical education requirements.

5. May a student double up, or accelerate in physical education?

No. A student may take extra physical education classes as electives but must continue to attend and participate in physical education for eight semesters or until the student meets all other requirements for graduation.

Elementary Physical Education Questions

6. What are the requirements for elementary physical education?

Grades K-3 are required to have daily physical education for a minimum total of 120 minutes per week. Grades 4-6 are required to have physical education three days per week for a minimum total of 120 minutes per week. See Commissioner's Regulation 135.

7. Does Recess count toward the physical education requirement?

No. Recess may not count toward the physical education requirement. 

  1. Can a certified physical education teacher supervise a recess aide to provide instruction leading to regulatory requirements of physical education at the elementary level?

No. Recess may not be used to meet the physical education days/time requirement (Commissioner’s Decision #12,934). Physical education by definition in Section 135.4(1)(k) Instructional physical education means the required physical education program which has as its foundation planned sequential learning experiences for all students. The regulation is very specific on who may teach physical education: physical education must be taught by a certified physical education teacher or an elementary classroom teacher under the direction and supervision of a certified physical education teacher.

See the following link for the Commissioner’s Regulation on physical education:Commissioner's Regulation 135 

8. Are there any waivers for the elementary physical education requirement?

No. At this time the State Education Department is not granting waivers.

9. Who should teach physical education at the elementary level?

A certified physical education teacher is the most qualified to teach physical education.

10. Is there any flexibility in meeting the elementary physical education requirement?

Yes. Under Commissioner's Regulation Part 135.4(c)(4)(i), elementary classroom teachers may teach physical education under the direction and supervision of a certified physical educator. There are areas of the physical education curriculum that can be completed in the student's classroom and taught by the classroom teacher. Since physical education includes not only physical, social, and emotional skill development but also cognitive learning, certain items can easily be done in the classroom by the elementary teacher (i.e. understanding the effect of physical activity on the body, the need for proper nutrition to live an active life, staying safe, prevent injuries, etc.). Integrating physical education into other curriculum areas is encouraged and even covered in Part 135.4(c)(1)(i)(i). However, this instruction must be designed with care and under the direction and supervision of the certified physical education teacher to ensure that the learning standards are met.

See Commissioner's Regulation 135 

11. How can we document the days and time spent in physical education if we use an integrated curriculum approach?

Update the District Physical Education Plan (required by Part 135.4) and submit a copy per regulation to the State Education Department's Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Instructional Technology. Designing the elementary physical education curriculum should be a cooperative venture of the District Director of Physical Education, the elementary physical education teacher(s) and the elementary classroom teachers. This would ensure that the physical education curriculum covered in this fashion counts toward the day and time requirement, and will be documented in both the physical education teacher's lesson plans and elementary classroom teacher's lesson plans. See Commissioner's Regulation 135.

12. Our sixth grade is in the middle school. What are the requirements for physical education if they are in the middle school?

According to the Strategy to Implement the Regents Policy Statement on Middle-Level Education (2004), the following was recommended:

Retain existing time requirements in grades 7 and 8 for:

  • English - 2 units
  • Social Studies - 2 units
  • Science - 2 units
  • Mathematics - 2 units
  • Arts/Music - ½ unit
  • Visual Arts - ½ unit
  • Physical Education - instruction equivalent to 3 periods for one semester and 2 periods for the other semester

The current requirements for instruction in these subjects in grade 6 remains the same as the previous requirements for grade 5 and 6. Instruction must be provided by teachers certified in these subjects.