The Idaho State Board of Education agreed to hear public comment on proposed new statewide physical education requirements during its monthly meeting this week in Pocatello.
The board also agreed to a public hearing on a proposal to allow certain computer science and engineering classes to count toward math requirements.
Both proposals were strongly supported by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.
Luna also presented a proposal to require cursive writing education, on which the board agreed to hold a public hearing.
He urged the board to establish minimum physical education requirements for elementary, middle, junior high and high school students. Under the new rule, elementary school students would be required to complete at least 60 minutes of P.E. per week while middle school students would have to complete 200 minutes. High school students would need to earn two credits of P.E. to graduate, one of which could be fulfilled through participation in sports or other afterschool activities.
Moscow, Troy, Potlatch, Deary and Genesee high schools already require students to complete two credits of P.E. to graduate. P.E. is also required at elementary schools and middle schools across the state, but there are no specific time requirements.
In addition to P.E., students would take CPR training as part of health classes. They would not have to pass a CPR test, however.
If passed by the board and, later, by the state Legislature, the new rules would go into effect in 2019.
Luna said research shows physical education not only improves student health, it also leads to better academic performance. He said the proposed changes were supported by the American Heart Association, which estimates 41 percent of adults in the country will be considered obese by 2015. They were also backed by the Idaho Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
The board initially struck down the proposal after several members argued to let the districts set their own P.E. requirements. After further debate, they decided to make the proposal available for public comment and to review the issue again, likely during their next meeting in November.
A proposal to require all elementary schools in Idaho to teach cursive also received the board’s initial approval. The board voted 6-1 to allow public comment on the issue before reviewing it further.
Idaho state Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, attended the meeting in support of the proposal. He argued that if students are not taught cursive, they will be unable to read historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence.
Luna also proposed allowing high school students to earn math or science credit when they take dual-credit engineering, dual-credit computer science or Advanced Placement computer science courses.
Currently, those courses are only offered as electives and don’t count toward the three years of math and three years of science students must complete to graduate.
Luna said the new rule is meant to encourage students to take more science, technology, engineering and math courses in high school. This proposal received initial approval from the board and will be open to public comment.