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More than 50K Brooklyn students aren’t getting enough physical education

May 31, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
Data shows that thousands of Brooklyn children aren't getting sufficient physical education. Image via Pexels

Brooklyn kids are seriously lacking when it comes to physical education, data shows.

The borough comes in third percentage-wise (23 percent of all Brooklyn students don’t get enough PE, as opposed to 34 percent of Manhattan students and 25 percent of Bronx students), but that percentage represents the highest number of children citywide: 58,213.

The data, provided by the Department of Education and broken down by the City Council, examines the number of students who do and do not meet the respective PE requirements for elementary, middle and high schools for the 2017-18 school year.

According to the DOE, elementary school students should receive at least 120 minutes of physical education a week, while kids in middle and high school should be getting at least 90.

Southern Brooklyn Councilmember Mark Treyger, a former educator and the current leader of the council’s Committee on Education, said the disparity often comes down to funding. “To be blunt, physical education falls in the category of art and music where, because there is no grand assessment in terms of scores, these areas are usually the first to get cut,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Many schools tend to prioritize where they’re being held accountable.”

When those figures are broken down by school zone, Brooklyn’s District 23 — which encompasses Ocean Hill, Brownsville and parts of East New York— ties Manhattan’s District 1 for the highest percentage of students not getting enough PE. Less than half the students in District 23 are getting sufficient physical education, according to the state’s standards.

No school district has a 100 percent track record (the highest numbers are in District 30 in Queens, where 88 percent of students are meeting the state’s requirements). In Brooklyn, District 22 — a notably large district that stretches from Ditmas Park to Mill Basin — is leading in PE compliance, with 82 percent of students getting the required physical curriculum.

Citywide, 214,077 students did not receive the required amount of P.E. during the 2017-18 school year. That’s 24 percent.

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“That is unacceptable,” said Treyger, who is a former high school teacher.

The Brooklyn lawmaker recently introduced a bill to help hold the DOE accountable for schools’ fluctuating phys-ed programs by forcing the agency to better report on the way the curriculum is handled – and funded.

“Quite frankly, it’s mind boggling why the DOE has not funded these programs across the city when they have more than enough resources to make this happen,” he said.

DOE Spokesperson Miranda Barbot pointed to an agency initiative called PE Works as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2017 Universal PE initiative in response.

“Access to sports and physical education is important for the wellbeing of our students, and we’re committed to expanding both,” she told the Eagle in a statement. “We’re investing $100 million in high-quality PE for all students and $385 million to provide all schools with PE space, and we launched a pilot to expand access to [The Public Schools Athletic League].”

When asked what might cause such variances from district to district, the DOE did not respond.

In the meantime, Treyger countered that too many schools are still waiting for their fair share.

“We have to turn this culture around,” he said, stressing that, physical education can oftentimes strengthen a student’s academic performance. “They don’t just benefit on the field. There are social and emotional benefits and, more often than not, an improved academic outcome.”

Treyger’s proposal was among a trio of bills on physical education and after-school athletics that passed unanimously Wednesday. The second, spearheaded by Brooklyn Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, will require the DOE to post similar data regarding after-school athletics. The third, led by Councilmember Helen Rosenthal of Manhattan, will mandate the agency to report on whether or not students with disabilities are receiving proper PE.

The councilman called the passage of the package a home run for students across the city.

“It’s a win-win,” Treyger said.

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