Illinois State Board of Education Unanimously Recommends Community Unit School District 308’s Waiver for Online Physical Education – Naperville Sun

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Oswego, Ill. (February 12, 2016) – At its February 10, 2016, meeting in Chicago, Springfield, and Marion Ill., the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) unanimously approved, 7-0, to recommend to the General Assembly District 308’s waiver request to provide high school students in 11th and 12th grades with the ground-breaking opportunity to receive physical education through a blended online curriculum. Board Chairman Rev. James Meeks was absent and did not participate in the vote.

If approved by the General Assembly, District 308 would be the first school district in the State to be allowed to provide online physical education for initial credit. Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt is proud of the initiative’s alternative format that will increase both the amount of physical activity required per student and the percentage of students who engage in physical education. During his tenure, he has successfully worked with District 308’s Board of Education and administration to broaden the traditional high school experience though online initiatives, evening courses and dual credit courses.

Presenting the district’s proposal at the ISBE meeting were Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Judith Minor, Executive Director of Secondary Education Jamie Max, Assistant Director of Professional Development Eric Watt, and Oswego Education Association Co-Presidents Elizabeth Palatine and Andrew Gothelf.

ISBE members applauded District 308’s creative initiatives and proven track record in the delivery of online and blended educational programs. Board Secretary Melinda A. LaBarre praised District 308 for its innovative work to help children and voiced her enthusiastic approval and support for the District’s current waiver for online physical education. Board member Curt Bradshaw echoed LaBarre’s remarks and sought to ensure that the Board’s recommendation of the Spring Waiver Report to the General Assembly, clearly indicated their support for District 308’s thoughtful and unique initiative.

District 308 first piloted online learning courses to its students during the summer of 2013, using instructors from the online provider Edgenuity. Within a year, it replaced Edgenuity’s instructors with its own staff. During the summer of 2014, 127 students engaged in online summer courses taught by District 308 teachers with a 94% pass rate, and with 75% of students earning A’s, B’s and C’s. In the fall of 2014, the District offered four online courses taught by District 308 teachers to 81 students. The pass rate for these students ranged from 97% in Consumer Education to 100% in Health. The number of students receiving A’s, B’s and C’s was similarly high, 98% for Health and 97% for Consumer Education. During the summer of 2015, 640 students enrolled in 23 online offerings taught by District 308 staff. This past semester, District 308 had 156 high school students enrolled in credit-bearing, online coursework for initial credit.

District 308 has carefully selected two physical education courses to strengthen its online platform, Personal Wellness and Lifetime Fitness. Both courses meet the statutory requirements set forth in Section 27-7, State Goals 19-24 and IAPHERD’s Criteria for Evaluating Physical Education. Each course would require students to complete 5 hours of fitness (cardiovascular exercises, stretching or weightlifting) throughout the week, and to record their physical activity and/or exercise data using a monitoring device, such as a Fitbit or Polar heart rate monitor. Fitness logs would be reviewed by the P.E. teacher during a face-to-face weekly or bi-weekly conference to ensure accuracy and accountability and to set appropriate benchmarks and pacing expectations. The hybrid course would also include regular opportunities for the student’s participation in a menu of group activities and supervised assessments. Notably, the 5 hours or 300 minutes of fitness activity required by the hybrid course would be an increase of 50 minutes or 20% over the traditional physical education class period required under the School Code.

This is the third time District 308 has brought ground-breaking initiatives before the State Board in the last two years. In the fall of 2014, District 308 received the first waiver in the State to provide high school students with up to 40% of their coursework through an online curriculum. In the spring of 2015, District 308 received a waiver to provide junior high students in 6th, 7th and 8th grades the opportunity to receive high school credit for high school coursework that they complete while attending junior high school. ISBE promptly initiated HB 806 to allow all school districts to provide high school credit to similarly high-achieving 7th and 8th grade students.

The State Board of Education will submit District 308’s current waiver request to provide online physical education to the General Assembly as part of its 2016 Spring Waiver Report no later than March 1, 2016. Once it reconvenes for the spring session, the General Assembly has sixty calendar days to disapprove any waiver requests contained in the report. If neither the Illinois House nor the Senate acts to disapprove any request during the sixty-day period, then the waivers are deemed granted. If approved, this waiver would become effective in August of 2016 for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years.

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