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Shaping Up for a Healthier Tennessee

When kids have ample opportunities to be active during the school day, the results aren’t just physical. Healthy students are better learners. They also attend school more often and behave better in class. While the link between health and academic achievement is clear, physical education standards differ from state to state, with many policies being broad and open to interpretation. As a result, far too many students nationwide are falling short of the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day.


All elementary students in Tennessee, however, will soon reap the benefits of highly effective physical education. Governor Bill Haslam recently signed into law the Tom Cronan Physical Education Act, requiring elementary schools across the state to provide at least 60 minutes of physical education for students each week, taught by a certified physical education teacher.

As a result, more than 400,000 elementary students in Tennessee will have access to the effective physical education programming they deserve. To hear how this news is resonating on the district-level, we asked Shelby County Schools’ Kelley Greene, assistant director of physical education, and Dr. Cassandra Turner, health, physical education and lifetime wellness director, to reflect on this new law and its potential impact across the state:

1. Why is it important for kids to have effective physical education at school?

Kids should be introduced to skill and movement in very early stages of life while their bodies are developing. Physical education teachers aren’t just exposing students to games but to skill development that is age appropriate. Students should have an opportunity to move and form opinions about developing a lifelong relationship with physical activity. The only way they can do this is by having access to effective physical education.

2. Tell us the significance of requiring physical education to be taught by a certified physical education teacher.

Physical education teachers provide a foundation of age appropriate skills and sports. Teachers are taught to work with students of all body types, coordination levels, and health challenges. One of the main things is that a certified physical education teacher has is the knowledge and training to develop students’ skills and game-strategy.

3. Describe how Shelby County Schools have succeeded in physical education. What makes your district unique?

We offer physical education to all students, pre-K through grade 12. We provide unique opportunities to students in K-5 through end-of-year demonstrations and host a district-wide Olympics. Students in grades K-5 are offered a chance to have friendly competitions through skill and sport challenges against other schools in the district.

4. Approximately 400,000 Tennessee students will be positively impacted by this new law. Why is this important, given the state’s demographics and/or prevalence of childhood obesity?

Physical education is the heart of what will help keep our students active and healthy. Teachers will have an opportunity to implement and embed skills that encourage health and physical fitness and activity for a lifetime. It will help students gain more movement throughout the week.

5. What advice do you have for any schools or districts who are just starting to revise their physical education curriculum to meet the new requirements? Any resources you recommend?

As a first step, create a one pager to show the difference between the Physical Education Act and physical education as it currently stands at your school. You’ll need to start conversations with administrators, as well as anyone in upper administration, early to gain their support. Principals should be aware that this new law may affect school scheduling and finance departments should note how the new law impacts the number of students that can be taught by one teacher at a time, in case more staff are needed. Finally, be sure to track the guidance and implementation coming from the state to help you enact strong policies that comply with the law.

Shelby County Schools is a participant in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program. Any school or district can sign-up to access free resources, trainings and tips to meet state and federal guidelines on physical education and beyond!


Get involved – speak up and join the PE Action Team today!