The management of Physical Education programs 

in times of tenure reform and new teaching policies

La administración de los programas de Educación Física en tiempos de cambio de reforma educativa y políticas de enseñanza


*Assistant Professor

William Paterson University


Dr. Ismael Flores Marti*

Dr. John Bae

Roger Kotlarz







          Physical education programs must adapt to the changing demands of our current education system. Changes in teacher tenure as well as new teacher evaluations are transforming the teaching landscape in many States. This call for change is not new in our field. Back in 1997, Siedentop and Locke suggested the need for fundamental changes in physical education (PE) curriculum and its delivery. At the time, one purpose was to increase the quality of PE in schools. The current situation demands, not only quality of instruction, but also a level of accountability as evidence for student growth and teacher effectiveness. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) already aligned the new PE national standards (2014) to those demands by emphasizing the meaning of a physically literate individual. The standards state that physically literate individuals: “have learned the skills necessary to participate in a variety of physical activities” and “knows the implications of and the benefits from involvement in various types of physical activities.” Evidently, physical educators, through an accountability system, must demonstrate that students “learned” and “know” physical skills and their implications in physical activities and sports.

          Keywords: Management. Physical Education. Reform.



          En los Estados Unidos, muchos de los maestros de educación física y maestros en general están pasando por unos cambios de reforma educativa y política de enseñanza. Un aspecto significativo de la reforma es que todos los estudiantes de escuela pública tienen que demostrar un desarrollo de sus conocimientos según los nuevos “Objetivos de Crecimiento” (Student Growth Objectives – SGO’s) a ser aplicados según la materia de estudio. Estos objetivos van a ser considerados como parte de la evaluación del maestro. La política de enseñanza más importante es que el maestro puede permanecer trabajando en su respectiva escuela de aprobar su evaluación académica. La enseñanza en el salón de clases va a ser evaluada cada 4 años para todos los maestros del sistema público. El propósito de este artículo es el delinear una serie de sugerencias administrativas para que los maestros de educación física, en sus respectivos programas, coordinen sus esfuerzos para que la enseñanza sea efectiva y paralela con la actual reforma.

          Palabras clave: Gestión. Educación Física. Reforma.


EFDeportes.com, Revista Digital. Buenos Aires, Año 18, Nº 188, Enero de 2014. http://www.efdeportes.com/

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Teacher Evaluations and Changes in Tenure

    In many States, Departments of Education have changed their policies regarding teachers’ tenure. Basically, the new policy establishes a teaching evaluation system to be applied every four years to every teacher within the district. The evaluation system includes the use of pre-selected teaching models (e.g., Danielson’s Model; Stronge Model among others) as a guideline or framework to evaluate teaching performance. Currently, departments of education across the nation are providing/provided districts with a number of models to be evaluated and, eventually, applied as the tool to evaluate their teachers. There are districts currently working with the model for the first time. One reason dictating this change is to gather data on teacher effectiveness as the determinant of teacher tenure. Tenure protections were created in the early 20th century. The reason for its creation was to protect teachers from arbitrary and discriminatory firings based on factors such as gender, nationality or political beliefs (Associated Press, 2012). One trend observed by critics were teachers getting tenure by just showing up for work, in the space of, approximately, three years, and once tenure was earned, ineffective teachers are very difficult to be fired from their position. The latest statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, dating 2007-2008 school year, show about 2 percent of teachers dismissed for poor performance, although the numbers vary widely by school district (Associated Press, 2012). The implementation of this new evaluation process intends to better justify teachers’ tenure.

    As stated before, one factor to be considered in the evaluation of teachers will be students’ performance through the Student Growth Objectives (SGO’s) to be designed by the physical education teacher for the entire academic year. The physical educator will gather assessment data from the group to whom the SGO was created for and will use that data as part of her/his teaching evaluation. In the face of these changes, one problem many physical education (PE) programs have is their lack of an accountability system. According to Rink (2010), assessment is still not valued by many physical education teachers. The lack of value on assessment is currently showing the lack of knowledge many physical educators have in the creation of an assessment system. This lack of accountability could be one of the factors provoking an increase in the rate of physical education programs been cut. One reason this is occurring is because it is “easy” to cut physical education programs because it is one of the untested subjects (Greg, 2012). As noted, this lack of accountability is presenting a serious problem to our field.

    Furthermore, in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has been outspoken about his views on education. His proposal involves payment to teachers based on merit, or offering bonuses to teachers who are more successful. Along with merit pay are tenure reform, more charter schools and school choice, and a longer school day and year. His view about physical education has been problematic. He stated that “science and math teachers should be paid more than gym teachers.” The Governor went on to classify science and math as “more valuable areas.” The American Alliance of Health, Physical Education and Health, through CEO Paul Roetert, appropriately responded to those remarks by stating: “We believe, and scientific research supports, that educating the ‘whole child’ is vital to a child’s overall academic success.” He elaborated his reply by stating that we should not put teachers in a hierarchy with some been of more value than others, but rather, to look at their work and motivate to keep improving their field of study. Across the nation, there are many physical education programs existing under deplorable conditions. It is unfair to judge a physical education teacher based on the level of accountability reported by her/him without looking at the circumstances under some physical educators work. Many researchers have pointed these conditions out in multiple reports. (Prusak, Pennington, Vincent, et al. 2010)

    “Physical education has been subjected to a constant barrage of external forces resulting in nearly insurmountable barriers to its success including lack of administrative and collegial support, lack of equipment, poor facilities, large class sizes, poor scheduling, philosophical and curricular differences, marginalization of subject matter, isolation, and lack of opportunities for professional development.”

    Furthermore, and according to the Shape of the Nation Report (2012), in the State of New Jersey, there is no student-to-teacher ratio establishing PE class sizes. Moreover, there are no requirements for assessment of students’ performance neither a requirement to include PE grades in the students’ grade point average (GPA). Evidently, poor workplace conditions are widely known in some States.

    In a poor teaching environment, it is very difficult for a teacher to be highly effective, and still, there are many good and effective teachers working under those conditions assisting students to be physically educated for a lifetime. These problems should be faced straightforwardly by physical education teachers. It is evident that if physical educators do not start acting on each and every one of the problems affecting them, nobody else will and there will always be the potential of policymakers trying to downgrade teaching programs.

    The benefits of a quality physical education program have been reported elsewhere. Two authorities in physical education, Siedentop and Locke (1997) proposed critical elements that must exist in our profession to make a difference and achieve systemic success in physical education. One of those elements is quality physical education in schools. Students will truly experience the benefits of learning about sports, fitness, dance, gymnastics and many other fundamental skills when the program demonstrates quality.

    For a program to demonstrate quality, the teachers within the program must align their units and lessons with the national and State standards; have a clear scope and sequence within the curriculum based on their students’ needs as well as clear curriculum goals. Of course, those are main areas that will require a repertoire of other requirements for the program to be of high quality. One of those requirements is for the physical education department to operate as a team; as a unit. Some PE programs consist of one physical education teacher, while others can have up to 20+ physical educators. In some schools, when there is more than one PE teacher, it can be difficult to operate as a unit due to differences between the teachers. Research has found that there could be marked differences in the planning, interactions, and student engagement between experienced and inexperienced physical educators (Griffey and Housner, 1991). Teachers’ beliefs, teaching styles and personality could also be contributors to differences between teachers which add another complex element to the already difficult situation many physical educators experience in their schools.

    Based on the new changes affecting the evaluation of teachers, and the use of students’ achievements as indicators of teacher effectiveness, many physical education programs must come together to adapt to those changes. A clear accountability system is a critical area of concern that will require physical educators to create an action plan that will help them in the fulfillment of the new requirements. Like in team sports, a new challenge will require a team to modify their tactics and strategies and for all players to be clear on how those strategies will be executed during a given game or tournament. Teamwork is not suggested, but required in order to be successful. An application of many of these aspects is necessary in our physical education programs. Precisely, the purpose of this article is to portray a managerial system as a strategy to coordinate the methodology, managerial requirements, alignment of standards, and accountability system within a school’s physical education program. The following sections present the areas of supervision/leadership, collaboration, and teacher roles within any physical education program as a system with the potential to help teachers work towards a common goal. It is the belief of the authors of this article that physical educators working in a well-managed program, in any context, will find the support and resources to facilitate the development of physically literate individuals through an effective accountability system and high quality lessons.


    Schools have a physical education (PE) faculty or an Athletic Director (AD) in charge of overseeing and/or directing the work done within the school’s PE department. In many schools, this person is considered the director of the physical education program. The director should work together with the faculty creating a good, coordinated working environment. Besides this charge, the director should make sure teachers are also held accountable for their work. At the beginning of the school year, the PE directors should share with the PE faculty what her/his role will be during the school year and what are the expectations she/he has of the faculty and vice versa. The curriculum, assessment, and classroom management goals must be discussed, delineated, agreed and established by all faculty members in the department. Moreover, the Student Growth Objectives (SGO’s) should be written with her/his assistance. In the process, the director will oversee the application of those goals throughout the school year. In case those goals are not observed or modifications are in order, the director, along with the faculty, should also decide the steps to be taken to help the faculty reach the goal or make changes to the points already established. The director/supervisor must be empowered by the district to hold teachers accountable (Prusak, Pennington, Vincent, Beighle and Morgan, 2010).


    Besides having a good leader, collaboration is one of the important factors, not only in the education field, but in many other areas like business, and even medical areas. Collaboration is supporting and working with each other to reach a specific goal or shared goals. In physical education programs, collaboration is imperative between its physical educators to provide quality of education to their students. To make a successful collaboration in the workplace, the educators need to have strong managerial leadership skills, not only in the director’s role, but within the faculty as well, and what is known as the Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT) analysis skills (Antony, 2012).

    Physical educators need to have four functions: planning, organizing, leading and controlling (Buhler, 1998). First, the teachers need a planning function because of setting goals and objectives and determining how they possibly approach and achieve them in advance (as related to the creation of SGO’s). To achieve this function, they need to have strong conceptual and decision-making skills. Second, they need to have an organizing function. To achieve their objectives, they need to coordinate their tasks and resources. Therefore, they need to have a communication and a networking skill. Third, they need to have a leadership function. Individuals have their own strengths so they are able to support other’s weakness areas. They are recommended to have strong networking and communication skills to become a leader. Lastly, they need to have a controlling function. They need to measure progress and take corrective action when necessary. For example, even though the teachers can do the same tasks, they should provide specific roles and duties. To achieve this function, they are required to have conceptual and decision-making skills (Lussier, Kimball, 2004, p. 10). These functions and skills cannot be ignored to coordinate physical educators’ knowledge and skills to support each other towards high quality of job performance.

    The other important factor to make a successful collaboration is understanding the SWOT analysis. The analysis is a strategic-level analysis that helps to improve the education performance level (Antony, 2012). Individuals are needed to identify their strength (positive) and weakness (negative) from their job performance. Individuals’ strengths can help to cover others’ difficulties, whereas individuals’ weaknesses could be complemented by someone’s strengths. For example, if a physical educator has strong technology skills, the educator can help his/her colleagues who need assistance with technology. For opportunities (chance) and threats (elimination), the educators are able to support and hinder achievement of their job performance. With a SWOT analysis, the educators are able to build on their strengths, minimize their weaknesses, seize opportunities, and counteract threats to increase their job performance.

The Teachers’ Role

    As in any group of professionals, there is a diverse set of skills within a group of physical educators. It is fair to say that each physical educator can have a unique role within the PE program. Different roles can be assigned to individual PE teachers based on their strengths and weaknesses, with the clear objective of contributing to the greater good of the department. For example, some teachers might be good and/or feel very comfortable in the creation of assessment tools. These teachers should be appointed as the assessment specialists that after selecting and/or creating these tools, an evaluation process by all teachers in the department should take place prior to the official implementation of the assessment. Once implemented, they should be used consistently by all of the teachers within the program. Other teachers might be good readers and should be appointed as the reporter of any news, changes and implementation of the new teacher evaluation model. There could be a teacher proficient at creating excel spread sheets. This teacher can be the organizer of the assessment reports for all of the students. Applying the “role of the player” within a physical education program might be effective in the fulfillment of the new evaluation requirements.

    One of the most important responsibilities for any physical educator is to be able to report student learning outcomes through assessment. “The very survival of physical education in the public school system will depend, in part, on how well we define the purposes and outcomes of our programs and the methods we use to document the successes of our students and teachers within those programs” (Woods, 1996). Every physical education teacher must report, in writing, an objective account of their students’ performances in their PE classes. This account must reflect the use of formative and summative assessment for student learning. In many cases, physical education is devalued as a subject matter area due in part to a lack of students’ accountability. It is widely known that formative assessments help the teacher get information on the effectiveness of their lessons as related to what the students’ are learning, the appropriateness of the levels of difficulty per task/lessons, as well as getting feedback concerning the curriculum and the teachers’ clarity on the delivery of the instruction. Stakeholders look at the students’ performance through reports provided by the different subject matter areas. Our field cannot continue to be devalued due to a lack of an implementation of an assessment system.

    In our current situation and through the SGO’s, physical education programs need to find a tangible goal that can be measured and ultimately deemed as a success or failure. This supports the idea of teachers using formal assessment strategies (i.e., skills tests before-and-after a unit, cognitive exams on rules, formative informal assessments). This will help create the hard data needed to determine whether the teaching is effective or not.

    A consistent approach to teaching and management methodologies beneficial to children is paramount (Prusak, Pennington, Vincent, Beighle, and Morgan, 2010). All teachers in a school must have a coordinated system addressing a variety of students’ behaviors. Consistency is the keyword. Once the student realizes a rule and consequence will be the same regardless of the lesson or area, there is a good chance the student will not only respect the rule, but understand it as the appropriate behavior to demonstrate in the school. Evidently, teachers are responsible to teach those rules and explain the consequences. Lessons can be ineffective when students, out of inappropriate behaviors, interrupt the class. The understanding of the order needed in a classroom is critical in the process of helping students be effective in the application of physical, cognitive and affective skills.

    A program where all physical educators do not share with one another the multiple situations happening on a daily basis can fail to be an effective program. On a daily basis, teachers face different behaviors by students (positive and negative), modify lessons (based on facilities, equipment and class sizes), having to cover classes based on a teacher’s absence, among other situations. For example, teachers must share a plan to be implemented when having to cover a class for a faculty that is absent. When plans of that nature have not been established, teachers might get surprised when asked to cover for a colleague. The situation can be problematic and stressful when no information was provided and no plan is in place for the modification in the schedule.

    For a program to be effective, its teachers must consistently share with one another the different difficulties and challenges each one experience in their classes. This type of interactions can help the teacher create a quick plan of action or strategies for what is coming up later in the day, and to plan strategies to avoid or improve the given situation in the future. Like in team sports, if players do not communicate, their offense and defensive strategies will lose coordination, plays can be lost, and tactics might not work. The same applies to any physical education program. We must coordinate the leadership, collaboration and different teachers’ role as the steps leading us to create a high quality physical education program in times of tenure reform and different teaching policies.


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EFDeportes.com, Revista Digital · Año 18 · N° 188 | Buenos Aires, Enero de 2014
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