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Divisions > Curriculum, Assessment & Accountability
Physical Education

Physical Education plays a critical role in educating the whole student. Like other academic courses of study, physical education is based upon rigorous national standards that define what students should know and be able to do as a result of participation. Physical education is unique to the school curriculum as it is the only program that provides students with opportunities to learn motor skills, develop fitness, and gain understanding about the importance of physical activity. Students will be provided an individualized, developmentally appropriate, and personally challenging instructional program that will advance the knowledge, confidence, skills, and motivation needed to engage in a lifelong, healthy, active lifestyle. With the increase in obesity nationwide, the benefits gained from physical activity include: disease prevention, decreased morbidity and premature mortality, and increased mental health and self-esteem. The benefits of physical education can also affect academic learning. Regular aerobic exercise produces an increased number of capillaries servicing the brain which allows for a greater exchange of nutrients and waste products. This optimizes oxygen and glucose delivery to the brain which can help improve brain performance. Additionally, physical education incorporates concepts of math, reading/English language arts, and science into the physical education realm. Technology is also being integrated into the curriculum through the use of heart rate monitors, pedometers, and computer-based fitness stations. The ultimate goal of physical education will always be participation in health-enhancing physical activity for a lifetime.

National Standards for Physical Education

The Maryland Physical Education Content Standards were designed to be consistent with the NASPE National Standards for Physical Education. The Maryland Physical Education Content Standards expand upon the NASPE standards and require students to use these skills and knowledge in active, in-depth learning experiences that focus on problem solving, decision making, and investigating authentic movement problems. Because of this, the Maryland Physical Education Content Standards look different from the NASPE standards, but they include the basic knowledge and skills advocated by both National and Maryland state experts.

The National Standards for Physical Education include:

Standard 1: Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities.

Standard 2: Demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities.

Standard 3: Participates regularly in physical activity.

Standard 4: Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.

Standard 5: Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings.

Standard 6: Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.

Maryland State Content Standards

Description of the Standards

The Physical Education Content Standards reflect scientific principles of exercise physiology, biomechanics, social-psychology, and motor learning essential to the development of a physically educated person. These principles are consistent with those in other academic areas, facilitating cross-curricular connections among physical education and science, mathematics, language arts, social studies, art, music, and health. For example, the scientific principles of exercise physiology emphasized in Standard 4, such as those that regulate muscular, skeletal, and nervous system functions and responses to physical activity, can be linked directly to content standards in the life sciences. Students can use the biomechanical principles in Standard 2 to examine the generation and application of forces consistent with those in the physical sciences, while analyses of physiological and biomechanical principles and applications can be described mathematically, enhancing students’ understanding of the relevance and relationships between these bodies of knowledge.

Teachers are encouraged to design tasks that focus on the application of theses principles to students’ life events in active, enjoyable settings. This contributes to understanding and retention of concepts. The social/psychological principles explained in Standard 6 contribute to students' understanding of themselves and others through the development of positive intra-personal and social skills within a diverse community of learners. The motor learning principles in Standard 3 explain the processes involved in learning physical skills. This knowledge enhances students' understanding of themselves as growing, learning individuals, reinforcing the importance of education and schooling in their lives. Standard 1 and 5, Skillfulness and Physical Activity, emphasize applications of the scientific principles, and concepts in the previous four standards within concept-rich movement tasks and activities. Through these two standards, students develop a rich and meaningful understanding of movement-related concepts and are encouraged to design and adapt scientifically sound physical and skill improvement plans.

Standards Development Process

The Maryland State Board of Education (MSDE), through the State Superintendent of Schools, formed a Physical Education Content Standards Workgroup comprised of local school system supervisors , MSDE staff, and representatives from Maryland colleges and Universities. The committee met over two years to develop the Maryland Content Standards using the National Standards for Physical Education developed by the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE).

The State Curriculum for Physical Education is the document that provides grade specific delineation of what students know and be able to do. The curriculum documents are formatted so that each begins with content standards or broad, measurable statements about what students should know and be able to do. Indicator statements provide the next level of specificity and begin to narrow the focus for teachers. Finally, the objectives provide teachers with very clear information about what specific learning should occur.

These statements will serve as the basis for local school system curriculum and assessment development. They clearly define student expectations at various grade clusters and serve as a basis for continual program improvement.

In Focus
State Curriculum for Physical Education
Adapted Physical Education (APE)

The physical education program designed for individuals with disabilities is called adapted physical education as it is in Title 34 Code of Federal Regulations. The program is adapted to meet the needs of each student through modifications and accommodations.

The student is not required to adapt to the conditions of the program as would be implied with adaptive physical education as in adaptive behaviors.

Adapted Physical Education is a service not a setting. It is important to distinguish that students with disabilities that need APE services, receive this service in order to benefit from quality instruction in physical education in the Least Restrictive Environment. Least Restrictive Environment is the federal language to describe the setting for receiving these services.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was re-authorized in 2006 as one of the many reauthorizations of PL 94-142, continues to identify the curriculum content area of physical education for individuals with disabilities.

This legislation identified physical education as a curriculum area that was to be provided for ALL children with disabilities (handicapping conditions). To date, physical education continues to be the only curriculum area identified in federal law, PL 94-142 and its current reauthorization PL 105-17.

In section 300.108 it states:

“Physical Education services, specially designed if necessary, must be made available to every child with a disability receiving a free appropriate public education”


In Focus

A Guide For Serving Students With Disabilities in Physical Education


Physical Education Resource Links

Society of Health and Physical Educators
(SHAPE America)

Maryland Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (MAHPERD)

Contact Information

Christopher Hersl

Educational Program Specialist in Health and Physical Education
Division of Curriculum, Assessment and Accountability
Maryland State Department of Education
200 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-767-0327
Email: ChristopherC.Hersl@maryland.gov

Deborah Grinnage-Pulley
Educational Program Specialist in Physical Education
Division of Curriculum, Assessment and Accountability
Maryland State Department of Education
200 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore MD 21201
Phone: 410-767-0354

Physical Education Facilities Guidelines For New Construction And Major Renovations, June 2011
A Guide For Serving Students With Disabilities in Physical Education
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