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New Surveys Say Parents and School Principals Think Physical Activity Promotes Better Learning but Fail to Prioritize

Chicago, IL | Press Release

New Surveys Say Parents and School Principals Think
Physical Activity Promotes Better Learning but Fail to Prioritize 

Surveys from Active Schools and NORC at the University of Chicago show most parents and principals believe physical learning is as important as academic, social and emotional learning.

JUNE 13, 2019 – In two nationally representative surveys of parents and principals on physical education and physical activity in schools across the United States, the collective impact movement Active Schools aimed to gain a better understanding  of the ways in which schools are, or are not, promoting childhood health and well-being. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents age 6 to 17 participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day, yet national data shows that many fall short of that.

“Kids learn and develop through movement. Physical activity and play are essential elements for child development, overall health and a well-rounded education,” said Charlene Burgeson, Executive Director of Active Schools. “Unfortunately, most children don’t move enough. And most schools aren’t providing enough movement opportunities. We wanted to explore why that is.”

The survey results show that while most parents and principals have positive attitudes about the importance and benefits of physical activity at school, their behaviors do not always reflect those beliefs. 

“What we find encouraging about this report is that 85 percent of parents said it is important, very important or extremely important that their child’s school is an active school. What we find discouraging is that only 39 percent of parents report communicating with their child’s school principal about it,” said Burgeson. “We found a similar disparity among principals, where 83 percent believe that schools should have the same responsibility for students’ physical, academic and social and emotional learning, but only half said their schools equally address all three.” 

Read the full report - The Movement Disparity: Parent and Principal Perspectives on Physical Activity in Schools

Among the key findings:

  • 81 percent of parents and 93 percent of principals believe that children and adolescents who are physically active are better learners.

  • 83 percent of principals believe that schools should have the same responsibility for students’ physical, academic and social and emotional learning, but only half said their schools equally address all three.

  • 85 percent of parents said that it is important, very important or extremely important that their child’s school is an active school, yet only 39 percent reported communicating with their child’s principal about it.

  • Principals provided a different account regarding parent communication with only 12 percent reporting that parents communicated with them about student physical activity.

The surveys were conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, an independent research institution. Data was collected for demographics including grade level, school location and socio-economic level, and additional analyses will be conducted to understand differences by demographics.

“This report not only clearly highlights the shared belief by parents and principals that movement plays an important role in a well-rounded education, but it also shows the disparity of behaviors when competing priorities come into play,” said Rob Bisceglie, CEO of Action for Healthy Kids, the home organization for the Active Schools movement and co-chair of the Active Schools Strategic Advisory Council. “The work that Active Schools is doing is important because it’s working to make real change in schools across the country by helping them provide all students access to 60 minutes of physical activity and play every day.” 

By joining the Active Schools movement, champions can help reimagine school environments that provide opportunities for academic, social, emotional and physical learning. Parents, principals, educators and the general public can access resources and grants to help keep kids healthy and active every day including the annual Take Your Parent to PE Week campaign during the last week of September.

About Active Schools 

The Active Schools collective impact movement brings together health- and activity-focused organizations from Fortune 500 companies to small nonprofits. Together, we support schools in their current reality by providing grants and resources to K-12 educators that help them build exceptional and equitable school-based physical activity programming for their students. Collectively, Active Schools, our partners and K-12 educators can help ensure students meet the national recommendation of at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, while creating a future where daily physical activity is the norm, inspire lifelong healthy habits and improve academic outcomes. Formerly known as Let’s Move! Active Schools, the initiative was launched in 2013 as an output of the May 2010 White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity and key element of former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! platform. Action for Healthy Kids is the organizational home for Active Schools, working together to create active and healthy school environments nationwide.