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Introduction to the New York State Physical Education Learning Standards

In 2018, New York State (NYS) began a process of review and revision of its current physical education standards adopted in 1996. The New York State Physical Education Learning Standards were developed through numerous phases of virtual and face-to-face meetings with committees consisting of NYS educators, parents, curriculum specialists, school administrators, and college professors.  Revisions, additions, instructional alignment, and clarifications to the current physical education standards reflect the collaborative efforts and expertise of all the above constituents. These standards are the framework for the development of knowledge, skills, and social emotional learning that enables students to transition to being healthy, physically literate adults.

The physical literacy construct is an important theme in this version of the New York State Physical Education Learning Standards.  Physical literacy is defined as the ability to move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person (Mandigo, Francis, Lodewyk & Lopez, 2012).  As a result, physical education provides unique learning opportunities that also contribute to and assure that students become physically literate and engage in a physically active lifestyle (SHAPE America).

The current version of the physical education standards are derivatives of two sources.  The first was the original NYS Physical Education Learning Standards in which the revision committee identified important themes that were carried over in this new iteration.  The second source—The National Standards for K-12 Physical Education and Grade Level Outcomes developed by the Society of Health and Physical Educators America (SHAPE)—was the principal document used to develop the New York State Physical Education Learning Standards.  Standards for prekindergarten physical development and health are included in the New York State Prekindergarten Learning Standards:  A Resource for School Success.  The Physical Education Standards for Pre-Kindergarten were reviewed separately when this resource was developed in 2019. 

The New York State Physical Education Learning Standards were envisioned for K-12 students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do in physical education using current best practices and research to support local school district and community needs.  As a result, the new standards were crafted broadly to provide flexibility for both physical educators and K-12 students.  Conversely, curriculum is a local school district decision and should not be viewed as such.  An analogy in home building and renovation may help to clarify this approach. “The standards are like the building code. Architects and builders must attend to them, but they are not the purpose of their design” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2012). Therefore, much like the architect above, physical educators must consider the standards in their practice, but have the autonomy to apply them distinctly in their own settings.

At the same time, teaching K-12 physical education in New York State may be unique for a variety of reasons.  For example, there are significant differences among school districts like facilities, equipment, time allotment, and many more.  Therefore, it is important that the New York State Physical Education Learning Standards are developmentally appropriate for all students, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

The concept of diversity which encompasses acceptance and respect while embracing individual differences is embedded throughout the new version of physical education standards and grade level outcomes.  This includes, but is not limited to dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.   Similarly, this venture recognizes a cultural view of learning and human development in which multiple expressions of diversity are recognized and regarded as assets for teaching and learning—otherwise referred to as Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CR-S).

There are other equally important influences that are reflected in this new version of physical education standards.  First, the power and value of wellness and physical activity cannot be overlooked. The National Wellness Institute identifies the following six dimensions of wellness: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, physical, and occupational.  The important connection between physical and mental health towards the overall wellness of a child was a critical consideration in this project.  As a result, the New York State Physical Education Learning Standards reflect both the NYS Social Emotional Benchmarks along with the NYS Mental Health Education initiative.  This provides physical educators the opportunity to support school districts' efforts to contribute to the goal of overall wellness.

Finally, to navigate and utilize the New York State Physical Education Learning Standards, it is important to understand how the standards have been organized and labeled.  The NYS Standards are categorized by 6 Anchor Standards. 

ANCHOR STANDARD 1.  Demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.

ANCHOR STANDARD 2.  Applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.

ANCHOR STANDARD 3. Demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.

ANCHOR STANDARD 4. Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.

ANCHOR STANDARD 5.  Recognizes the value of physical activity for overall wellness, enjoyment, challenge, and/or self-expression.

ANCHOR STANDARD 6.  Recognizes career opportunities and manages personal and community resources to achieve and maintain overall wellness.

Within each Anchor Standard are Grade Level Outcomes.  The figure below details how the NYS Standards are categorized.  The example below (NY.S6.1.K) refers to New York State Anchor Standard 6, Grade Level Outcome 1, at the Kindergarten Level.  Please note grade levels are listed from K-8 with grades 9/10 identified as Level 1 (L1) and grades 11/12 as Level 2 (L2).

Figure details how the NYS Standards are categorized.  The example (NY.S6.1.K) refers to New York State Anchor Standard 6, Grade Level Outcome 1, at the Kindergarten Level.