Feature: Shedding Light on PE Credit Changes

Photo Credit: Steve Ellsworth

Competitive cycler Jason Saltzman cannot use biking to fulfill his PE requirement as it is a non-MA sport.

The past three years have marked major changes concerning PE credits, an issue that has affected all student-athletes in the district. Along with the elimination of outside-of school sports, or PE substitutes, the amount of credits per quarter has been raised to simplify the process of filling the graduation requirement.


To graduate, a student needs 20 PE credits and it is mandatory for freshmen to take PE to begin accumulating those credits. After freshman year, students can achieve credits through sports or continue taking PE.


Prior to 2011, PE credits could be gained either through M-A sports or outside-of-school, along with taking PE itself. For example, a student rowing crew with a club could receive the same credits as someone running cross country (if each practiced for the same amount of time each week).


Yet the state claimed that both on-campus and outside sports differed from their definition of physical education. Therefore the Sequoia Union High School board required its schools to change their PE credit conditions in two ways.


The first change affected those playing non-M-A sports: PE substitutes were canceled, leaving students to either play M-A sports or take PE to get credits.


This graduating class of 2014 will be the last class allowed to use any sort of substitutes; since it was approved their freshman year, Vice Principal Lippi explained, it is necessary “to follow through because they made their plan…it wouldn’t be fair” to make the changes for only some of M-A’s population.


The PE substitutes were vetoed as of 2011 as the policy did not fall in the State’s definition of physical education. According to Lippi, “Physical education encompasses more than just running around and staying in shape, there is an education component.”


This component includes learning general health and body awareness and is required by the California Department of Education.


Playing a specific sport does not garner the general education one acquires in PE class, as Lippi explained. This is not to say that those student-athletes competing privately “weren’t in great shape and being physically [fit], but there wasn’t that education aspect.”


According to the California Department of Education standards, PE should teach students how “their bodies move and how to perform a variety of physical activities. Students learn the health-related benefits of regular physical activity and the skills to adopt a physically active, healthy lifestyle” (CA Education Code). By granting credits to students for these sports, the district was “out of compliance with the State.”


Sophomore Jason Saltzman cycles for a specialized bike racing team, a rigorous group that competes year-round. Despite his involvement in such a intense training program, Saltzman does not receive credits for cycling and instead must take PE.


He stated that, “I have to take energy I could be spending on my biking [for PE].  I could be recovering from what I did yesterday and but instead I have to spend [energy] in PE. So PE is not a efficient use of my time.”


Along with pressure from the State, PE substitutes were also eliminated to create a boundary for what sports constitute PE credit. Lippi mentions: “there was always contention because we would honor certain types of sports.” Now it is more fair for all student-athletes because some sports aren’t given priority over others.


The second change involved the placement of athletic credits: instead of administering credits for M-A sports in the PE category, which goes against State policy, seasonal sport credits are now placed in the elective category.

Accordingly, all credits earned through sports fill the elective requirement. Previously, only freshman sports were included in the elective category, as maximum 10 credits in the PE category are already filled for those semesters by the Physical Education course.

All student-athletes are now, “getting elective credit and it’s applied towards the PE requirement” states Guidance Counselor, Ms. Duran.  However, once a student-athlete becomes a sophomore, the credits they earn through sports become ‘elective’ credits, but M-A policy allows them to continue filling the PE requirement.


However as of the 2013-14 school year, students are can earning 3.5 ‘elective’ PE credits for every quarter of PE or season of a sport, instead of 2.5 like freshman year.

This aides students in the credit-earning process, only requiring a student to play one sport for three years after freshman year. Previously, a student needed to play 4 seasons of sports to waive the PE requirement. This meant athletes who would typically only participate in a single sport ended up having to take a quarter of PE, or play an additional season of another sport to fulfill their requirement.

This caused problems for a large number of single-sport athletes, who wanted to be able to devote their off-season to playing the sport outside of school, rather than playing another sport at school.


Consequently, while students no longer receive PE substitute credits, the credit amount for each season of an M-A sport has been increased. Without PE substitutes, administration now has a defined line for what earns credits and what doesn’t, making the required amount of physical education for graduation both more straightforward and easier to fill.