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MCAS vs. Physical Education

With the increased importance of the MCAS, physical education has taken a back seat to standardized tests.   


SOMERVILLE – Somerville High School is like many high schools in the Boston metro areas.  Every day, its students and teachers feel the impact of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates imposed in 2001. They have to abide by the test standards set by NCLB or risk falling into the “underperforming” segment of high schools. If Somerville High falls into that category, it will lose federal funding until test scores rise to an acceptable level. 

So far, that’s not happened.  Somerville has not been labeled “underperforming” and student test scores have gone up across the board the last several years.

But the NCLB and the increased emphasis on of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) has raised concern about a potential reduction of class room time spent on subjects that aren’t tested by the MCAS, i.e. physical education. 

“There definitely seems to be a reduction of time spent on physical education,” said Somerville parent Richard Allan. “They don’t seem to be putting as much emphasis on physical activity in the school as they use to.”

Tim O’Keefe, Director of Physical Education of Somerville Public Schools assures Somerville students that they won’t be cutting time out of physical education to study for the MCAS tests. 

“We do our best to make sure that everyone gets the best physical education possible,” said O’Keefe.

That does not convince everyone that students are getting enough physical education in their day.

“It seems as though there is definitely a connection to the amount of time spent working on passing tests and reducing the amount of physical education in a student’s day,” said Somerville student Craig Huffsetler. “If the system is set up so that you have to get a good score to get federal funding, why wouldn’t you spend more time on it?”

Somerville High School students, however, haven’t noticed a big reduction in the amount of time spent doing physical activity in school because of the increased reliance on the MCAS.

“It seems like we focus on the subjects that are covered by the MCAS but, I don’t think that they have really reduced the amount of time in gym,” said student Joshua stevens. Maybe if our school didn’t do well on the MCAS there would be a difference, he said.



According to study conducted by CNN in 2006

One of the bigger differences between now and ten years ago, is the amount of time spent doing physical activities outside of school.

“We have to do a better job getting kids excited about physical education. They have to want to go out and exercise. They shouldn’t see it as a chore” said Allan. 

Somerville High parents aren’t sure if that is happening right now, so it is more important than ever that schools provide some sort of physical education so that students can get a jumpstart in order to lead a healthy and energetic lifestyle. 

Parents hope that the MCAS tests improve students’ knowledge in subjects that typically got and get them ready for college.

“We really need to make sure that our kids are in shape and ready for anything,” said Huffsettler. “Hopefully we can not only help our kids get smarter, but also keep them in shape.”