(Original article can be found here)

Audit Finds City’s Schools Short on Physical Education

By Fernanda Santos, Octobr 4, 2011

Despite alarming obesity rates among school-age children and a state requirement that all students get some level of structured exercise every week, many New York City schools do not provide physical education, or do not provide it as frequently as they should, according to an audit released on Tuesday by the city comptroller.

None of the 31 elementary schools throughout the city that officials visited — of about 700 total — were in full compliance with the state guidelines on physical education, the audit found.

It also found that the city’s Department of Education had not filed physical education plans with the state since 1982, in spite of a state recommendation that the plans be reviewed and updated every seven years. In response, officials in the department said they were working on a new plan, though its final draft is not expected until next year.

“The D.O.E. is failing gym,” the comptroller, John C. Liu, said.

Education Department officials said in the audit that they did not monitor whether students were getting as much exercise as they should in school, and that it was each principal’s responsibility to make sure the requirements were met, much as it is the principal’s role to supervise compliance in other instructional areas.

The audit pointed out that while students were required to take state tests in math, English and other subjects, there was no similar mechanism to monitor the schools’ physical education programs.

Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said in a statement on Tuesday that the department had been working to combat obesity among students.

“We know we have more work to do in this area,” Ms. Morgan said, “and the comptroller’s recommendations coincide with our ongoing efforts to improve the quality of physical education instruction in our schools,” including a better explanation of requirements for principals.

Auditors visited selected schools throughout the five boroughs that serve students from prekindergarten through eighth grade, to determine whether physical education classes were held as frequently as required: every day for kindergarten through third grade, for at least 120 minutes a week; three times a week for grades four through six, also for a minimum of 120 minutes; and at least 90 minutes a week for grades seven and eight.

None of the schools were in full compliance. Nine of them — five in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan and three in Queens — offered physical education classes, but not as often as required.

There were discrepancies between what school officials told the auditors about how much physical education their students received and what appeared in the database that stores students’ transcripts.

For example, while officials at Public School 96 in East Harlem said that students in grades six through eight had two periods of physical education each week, the database showed that one-third of the students in those grades were scheduled for just one period.

The audit said that one of the reasons schools did not comply with the state requirements was that their principals were not aware of them; other reasons included lack of money. And some schools do not have the space.

P.S. 107 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which is operating over its capacity, does not have a gym. P.S. 47 in the Soundview section of the Bronx has a gym, but no physical education teacher, because the school could no longer afford one, the audit said.

Education Department officials said the city was making connections among the schools, the parks department and private recreation centers to find exercise space for schools.