PE Works Year 4 Report


PE Works is Mayor Bill de Blasio’s unprecedented multiyear investment to revitalize physical education (PE) for every student in New York City public schools. The initiative began with an intensive and holistic four-year effort to establish physical education as a foundational component of every student’s academic experience. Research shows that physically active students do better in school and learn skills that can keep them healthy for their entire lives. Building on an eight-district pilot in 2015-16, PE Works expanded Citywide in 2016-17 with a mandate to improve physical education in all K-12 schools. Throughout the initiative, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) focused on three areas: investing in teachers, building PE into school environments, and developing communities that are proud of PE.  

PE Works Impact: Year 4 Summary 

As a result of PE Works, the DOE can now report for the first time ever that: 

  • Nearly every elementary school has a certified PE teacher 
  • The vast majority of elementary schools are trained to provide Move-to-Improve in their classrooms 
  • 78.9% of elementary students are meeting PE time requirements

Overall, in 2018-19 schools reported that 84.7% of K-12 students Citywide received the required amount of PE instruction, compared to 53.3% of students in 2015-16, the PE Works pilot year.  In 2015-16, only one in four elementary school students received the required amount of PE, with staffing reports and pilot year needs assessments suggesting that even fewer students received it prior to 2015.

Our work ahead will focus on sustaining progress to date in these areas, and continuing to increase and strengthen quality physical education for all students citywide.

Investing in Teachers 

In order to revitalize physical education in New York City Public Schools, we hired and retained a total of 454 certified PE teachers over the first four years of PE Works, and we created vibrant professional learning communities at all grade levels so that PE teachers are engaged, empowered, and respected for their contributions. Retaining newly formed PE positions, developing teacher leaders, and preparing new PE teachers are essential steps to ensure the gains made by PE Works are sustained in coming years. 

In 2018-19, the DOE completed the final phase of recruiting, screening, and providing initial funding to support hiring for 174 certified PE teachers for elementary schools that did not have one previously. All schools serving elementary grades now have a PE-certified teaching position, and 95% have the position filled (4% are in process to fill the position for the 2019-20 year), achieving a key PE Works goal. We continued to strengthen new PE teacher development through the Pathways to PE alternative certification program and a supplementary certification program, both of which will continue in the coming years to help ensure a robust pipeline of prepared PE teachers. As a regular part of PE professional learning, educators now participate in Professional Learning Pathways, which are training sequences to build PE teachers’ expertise, and multi-week coaching cycles that provide teachers with individualized instructional support. Teacher-led Professional Learning Communities continue to attract PE teachers from all districts to learn and address problems of practice together, and more PE teachers than ever are representing New York City public schools in national, State, and local conferences. 

Year 4 Progress 

More PE Teachers 

  • 174 PE Works-funded elementary PE teachers hired; a total of 454 positions have been funded since the pilot  
  • All schools serving elementary grades now have a PE-certified teaching position, and nearly all (95%) have filled the position (4% are in process to fill the position for the 2019-20 year), achieving a key PE Works goal 
  • 26 new participants in Pathways to PE, an alternative PE certification program, and 24 participants in our supplemental certification program, totaling 155 participants since PE Works started 
  • 24% of full-time, licensed PE teachers now teach in K-5 elementary schools, up from 10% four years ago; Citywide increase in total number of K-12 PE teachers from approximately 2,400 to more than 2,850 over four years  

More Professional Learning and Leadership  

  • 12,600+ classroom teachers in elementary schools were trained by more than 370 PE teachers on how to use Move-to-Improve, a classroom physical activity program that supplements PE
  • 93% of elementary schools have a Move-to-Improve-trained teacher 
  • 599 (75%) meet criteria to supplement their PE minutes with Move-to-Improve, double the number of schools from last year
  • 1,700+ PE teachers participated in the Professional Learning Pathway for elementary teachers and more than 950 engaged in secondary pathway trainings 
  •  377 teachers participated in individualized coaching cycles  
  • 270 PE teachers, on average, participated in Professional Learning Communities led by PE teachers each month, with more than 740 PE teachers participating at least once during the year 
  •  146 PE teachers represented New York City public schools at State and national conferences  
  • One of the 17 DOE Big Apple Award winners for 2018-19 was High School Adapted PE teacher Douglas Rebecca of PS 721 in Brooklyn, recognized for his teaching skills, advocacy, and providing students with opportunities that allow them to succeed independently

Building PE Into School Environments 

PE Works helps school leaders create a culture that establishes and sustains comprehensive PE for years to come. To engage principals with continuing to improve PE conditions in each school, we updated schools’ multiyear PE action plans and shared specific steps and resources to improve staffing, scheduling, professional learning, community building, and to ensure that PE spaces are safe and supportive. We also expanded Professional Learning Communities for principals and assistant principals to help them strengthen their capacity to support PE staff, curriculum, and instruction. To help standardize PE instruction across the City, we published PE Scope and Sequences for elementary and secondary grades, providing principals and teachers with clear guidance for what students should know and be able to do in physical education. 

Year 4 Progress 

  • 1,480+ schools received new action plan steps 
  • 170+ principals and assistant principals met across five Professional Learning Communities, one in each borough, to discuss PE problems of practice; 48 participated in PE scheduling labs to improve scheduling  
  • 73 schools received facility upgrades (padding) to make PE spaces safer; a total of 170 schools across 119 buildings have benefited from upgrade through the initiative  
  • The first-ever standards-based PE Scope and Sequence for grades K-5 and grades 6-12 were published on WeTeachNYC

Developing Communities that are Proud of PE 

Families and local stakeholders are powerful advocates for PE and physical activity, especially by supporting school-based wellness activities and joining School Wellness Councils. The DOE funded physical activity programs and School Wellness Council grants, as well as events and partnerships that provide students with opportunities to engage in wellness activities beyond PE. The District Wellness Advisory Council reviewed PE materials, engaged the Student Voice Committee for a second year, and contributed to the first-ever Wellness Policy Annual Report published in March 2019. The DOE published a series of PE Stories of Change to highlight PE Works collaborations in schools, showing the role communities play in supporting PE and physical activity as integral to student health.

  • 177 schools won a School Wellness Council grant  
  • 102 Citywide physical activity showcases and events occurred, including 49 adapted physical activity/sports events for students with disabilities  
  • 1,500 CHAMPS physical activity programs were funded at more than 470 elementary and middle schools, including District 75  
  • 40,000+ students participated in CHAMPS and adapted physical activity programs and events 
  • 31,000+ students played in active recess programs and engaged in partner-provided supplementary programming, like field trips, clinics, and workshops

Looking Ahead 

To achieve better staffing and scheduling outcomes, PE Works focused on overcoming historical barriers to physical education by first giving principals the funds and hiring support to re-prioritize PE. Now that we have achieved our hiring goals, we will continue to focus on retention, professional learning, and community building components of PE Works in schools that have not fully met their goals, providing technical support where inconsistencies persist. We will also shift our focus to sustain improvements in all schools, strengthening the quality of instruction, and standardizing PE experiences across grades by:

  • Retaining PE Works-hired PE teachers and ensuring schools maintain and fill new PE vacancies to keep physical education strong. Among the 50 schools that hired teachers in the 2015-16 (pilot) cohort of PE Works districts, all have retained a PE-certified teaching position, even as initiative funding has phased out. Subsequent cohorts will be monitored carefully to ensure all positions are retained and filled in a timely manner. 
  • Helping schools that are not yet meeting PE time and frequency requirements to improve their programming so that all students receive and benefit from appropriately scheduled PE classes. 
  • Refining and improving the new structures created through PE Works, including NYC’s PE teacher pipeline, robust professional learning pathways and coaching cycles, PE Professional Learning Communities for teachers and administrators, and multiple ways for teachers to participate in local, state, and national leadership opportunities. 
  • Training administrators and teachers to use the new PE Scope and Sequence for all grades so that schools Citywide have the same instructional guidance and recommendations for what quality physical education looks like each year. 
  • Developing differentiated PE action plans for special populations and a web-based app for sharing PE action plans with schools. 
  • Strengthening the membership of the District Wellness Advisory Council to increase student, family, teacher, administrator, and community member participation, building pipelines from School Wellness Councils and other wellness-related groups.  
  • Evaluating data and information gathered during the initiative to determine student impact and inform sustainability. A preliminary program evaluation of student cardio-respiratory fitness data from the first three years of PE Works shows that students in grades 4 and 5 in K-5 pilot schools (2015-16) had larger and steadier yearly improvements in aerobic capacity compared to students in schools that participated in PE Works starting in 2017-18 and 2018-19.  

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