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Health and Physical Education


DCPS provides comprehensive, progressive studies in health and physical education (PE) through high-quality instruction rooted in research-based best practices. Each program provides students with necessary skills to engage in a lifetime of wellness and physical activity. The primary goals of comprehensive health education are to develop health literacy in students and to support them in attaining positive health outcomes. The goal of physical education is to develop physically literate students who have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of healthful physical activity.

Student Experience

DCPS requires all students to receive health and physical education.

  • Elementary school: Students  receive a minimum of 45 minutes of health and physical education per week.
  • Middle school: Students receive a full year of health and physical education.
  • High school: Students must complete 1 credit of physical education and .5 credits of health education in order to graduate.

Program Highlights

  • Archery: DCPS holds an annual archery tournament where qualifying students are eligible to compete in a national competition in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • CPR: As part of the Cornerstones initiative, seventh grade and high school students learn hands-only CPR. Hands-only CPR is an American Heart Association’s curriculum that is geared toward teaching basic lifesaving skills.
  • Cycling: As part of the Cornerstones initiative, all second graders learn how to ride a bicycle. Students’ learning culminates in a five-to-seven mile ride to a park.
  • Elementary Swimming Program: At the Marie-Reed Pool, Marie-Reed ES students receive weekly swimming instruction, Tuesday-Thursday during the academic school day throughout the 10-month school year. On Mondays and Fridays, neighboring elementary schools operate on a rotating schedule and travel to Marie-Reed to receive 10 weekly lessons. Instruction is led by dedicated certified health and physical teacher with a water safety instructor’s endorsement. Over the course of instruction, students master essential components of water-safety, develop comfortability in water, improve swimming skills, and practice personal safety.
  • First Tee Golf: Elementary PE classes participate in this program, which focuses on golf skills, and healthy habits.
  • Fly Fishing: In PE class, students learn how to fly fish in the gymnasium with the National Fly Fishing in Schools program. Student’s learning culminates in a fly fishing field trip.
  • Heart Rate Monitors: Middle and high schools have heart rate monitors that allow students to accurately capture their physical activity during PE classes.
  • Swimming: Cardozo, Ballou, Dunbar, Roosevelt and HD Woodson are offering swimming as elective courses, and these schools plan to grow their aquatics programming to include certifying students as lifeguards and swim instructors.
  • What’s Cooking?: Cooking skills are essential to a lifetime of healthy eating habits. All 8th graders learn how to cook through its “What’s Cooking?” Unit. This multi-dimensional approach teaches the science of nutrition and its effects on health through cooking basics such as kitchen safety and cooking techniques. As they develop lifelong skills in the kitchen, students investigate the meaning of food in the larger context of family, culture,and community. In response to student feedback, DCPS plans to expand the unit to including cooking with heat so that students will be equipped with all the necessary skills to cook for a lifetime.

Health Education

In developing health literacy, students build the capacity to obtain, interpret and understand health information and services and to apply core concepts and skills. The vision for health education is that through literacy, life-skills, self-management and awareness strategies, students will ultimately influence the families and communities of Washington, DC.

To assist students in adopting and maintaining healthy behaviors, DCPS provides students with a framework that allows them to learn key concepts and to practice using health skills. Skills-based instruction, which consists of analyzing health influences, accessing and evaluating valid health information and services, interpersonal communication, decision making, goal-setting, practicing health enhancing behaviors and advocacy; revolves around 6 areas of focus:

  • Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
  • Disease prevention
  • Mental/ emotional health
  • Nutrition
  • Safety
  • Comprehensive sexual health education


PE class provides academic programming that develops motor skill competency and applies concepts related to movement and performance with a focus on instilling understanding and valuing the importance of physical activity throughout one’s lifetime. Physical Education has shifted from a competitive environment to one that is more inclusive and focuses on cooperative challenges, social interaction, self-expression and realizing personal goals while developing students’ intrinsic motivation to engage in physical activity.

PE uses an individualized approach where students create goals to improve or maintain their fitness levels. To support this, students in grades 4 through high school participate in FitnessGram testing, where they assess the five areas of health related fitness: muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and body composition. Teachers can use FitnessGram to perform fitness and physical activity assessments. The program provides DCPS with data on PE in each school and across the district, which informs curricular and programmatic decisions related to the quality and quantity of physical education, staff development, recess, and more.

Adapted Physical Education

The adapted physical education (APE) teacher is a direct service provider who is responsible for developing an appropriate physical education plan for individuals with disabilities (USCA 1402(25)). Additionally, the APE teacher positively motivates students to develop appropriate skills, attitudes, and knowledge; utilizes a variety of instructional techniques appropriate to students’ abilities; creates a safe and orderly learning environment; assesses students motor skill development and fitness and determines whether a student needs APE services.

The APE teacher:

  • Provides direct service provider (hands-on teaching).
  • Completes comprehensive motor assessments of individuals with disabilities and making specific program recommendations.
  • Consults for physical education and special education staff providing physical education instruction for individuals with disabilities.
  • Works on IEP (Admission, Review, Discontinuation with multi-disciplinary team) as the MDT member who helps develop the IEP in the psychomotor domain.

PEEL Fellowship

The Physical Education Emerging Leaders (PEEL) Fellowship is a program that raises the caliber of the Health and Physical Education program of DCPS. Each year, 10 fellows are chosen through a competitive application process to participate. To build a culture of wellness the school level, schools with current PEEL fellows identify a Wellness Champion. Wellness Champions are responsible for helping to build the Wellness Program by organizing and engaging the community in wellness events.

Additional Resources

The relationship between physical activity and academic achievement[PDF]
Supporting Quality Physical Education

Contact Information

Maggie White, Deputy Chief, Arts, Global Education, Health and Physical Education
Miriam Kenyon, Director, Health and Physical Education
Danielle Shakur, Manager, Physical Education
Michael Posey, Manager, Physical Education