Measuring Growth in PE: IDEAS for Overcoming Roadblocks

Assessments should be an authentic reflection of the learning happening is the classroom. Physical Education (PE) is no exception.  In a performance-based course such as PE, the assessments should be performance-based in nature.

There are, of course, instances in which the variability of teaching and curriculum makes the assessment types we see look different.


Roadblock #1: My students don’t have PE very often!

Best case scenario, all students participate in PE five days a week; however, we know this is not always the case. There are often times elementary teachers may only see PE students a couple of times a week for 20-30 minutes per session. In this scenario, elementary PE teachers often feel as if they do not impact physical fitness as much, and therefore, struggle with implementing a performance-based fitness assessment to measure growth.

When this is the case, we can still look for common threads that are measurable over multiple units. Here are some ideas to get your creativity started:

Idea #1:  Look for skills practiced in multiple units.  For example, the 3 components of an overhand throw. A student can use an overhand throw in baseball, football, or lacrosse. As another example, a student can do an underhand serve in tennis, volleyball, badminton.  Many of these skills in PE can be measured using a rubric to show growth (change in proficiency of a skill over time).

Idea #2: Considering measuring student analysis of the skill rather than execution.  In other words, show the students an example (video, or demonstration) of someone throwing a ball, doing a push-up, etc.  Ask them to critique the form, steps and so forth.


Roadblock #2:  I don’t want to use up too much of my limited class time testing!

Teachers need to think about creative ways to integrate the growth assessment into their classroom.  Some teachers have used stations at which ONE is an assessment, but the others are active.  Teachers can have a simple assessment for the students at that station, and then they move to the next active station.

Idea #1: A station can have 3 example meals and ask: Which of these plates illustrates a healthy meal?

Idea #2: Students can watch a brief video of someone in a weight room.  Student then critiques form of the squat, leg press, etc. using a rubric or other provided tool.


Roadblock #3: My students grow MOST in their fitness!

In cases where PE teachers feel they are impacting physical fitness, measuring growth can happen in many ways. By using components of FitnessGram or Pacer, teachers are able to measure growth through change.

Idea #1:  For example if a student ran a 10-minute mile and now runs at 9 minute, 30 second mile, that is growth.  Teachers will have to set goals based on how much growth is appropriate based on student starting point.

Idea #2: Student Heart rates are a potential arena for measuring growth

There is some concern among professional organizations that focusing too much on growth in fitness and not enough in the growth in understanding fitness will cause PE class to become more like “boot camp” and less focused on learning about healthy choices that have leverage for the student beyond that class.


Roadblock #4: Based on the legislation (or other reason) I don’t want to use fitness data!  Now what?

Legislation has been passed specifically in Illinois requiring that physical fitness cannot be used for grading.  For example, a teacher must not state a student needs to complete 50 push-ups to earn an “A”.  Likewise, an administrator must not state a teacher must have 80% of his/her students doing 50 push-ups to earn an “excellent” rating.

Some Illinois schools are still using fitness under the pretense that the law does not explicitly state that using GROWTH in fitness is not allowable.  The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has put together a committee that will be releasing interpretation and recommendations for implementing the law in the near future.

Idea #1: Growth can be measured by creating personal physical fitness plans. Growth can be seen in the quality of the plan, elements included, etc.

Idea #2: Students can use a rubric to analyzing scenarios such as form on a weight lifting video, thus using the facts that were taught in class, but growth is measured in a student’s ability to analyze a weight lifting scenario.

Idea #3: Students can watch clips from sporting events and analyze the player’s muscle use, the types of exercises that would help the players improve their game, the types of muscles being used in these sports, etc.

Dawn Monge
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Dawn Monge

This article was written by Kids At The Core team member Dawn Monge.Dawn is an assessment and curriculum specialist who is passionate about using the right student data to inform classroom instructional choices.
Dawn Monge
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