Enhancing Physical Education in Illinois

Illinois has been a leader in valuing children’s health, long requiring daily P.E. for students in grades K-12Many schools have designed or adopted model programs to meet this requirement and create opportunities for physical activity.

There is a significant body of research showing that children who are more physically active perform better in class and on standardized tests and have improved on-task behavior in class. With one in three Illinois children overweight or obese and at increased risk for chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, improving opportunities for physical activity is imperative for improving our children’s academic achievement and their health.

Note: The Illinois Public Health Institute has a professional development program for P.E. teachers, Pump Up P.E.: Promote Health, Learning & Lifelong Fitness, on enhanced P.E. and implementing the recent P.E. developments described below. Visit the Pump Up P.E. page for information on the program, a list of upcoming professional development events and details on personalized technical assistance packages for teachers, schools and districts.

Enhanced P.E., defined as “programs that increase the length of, or activity levels in, school-based physical education classes,” is considered an evidence-based intervention for improving physical activity by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Strategic_PlanCombined with the neuroscience research showing that physical fitness and physical activity are linked to improved academic achievement and improved behavior, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Illinois Public Health Institute led efforts to produce an Enhanced P.E. Strategic Plan, with input from a voluntary Enhanced P.E. Task Force in 2012.

TFAs the voluntary Enhanced P.E. Task Force finalized the strategic plan, Public Act 97-1102 established the Illinois Enhance P.E. Task Force to promote and recommend enhanced physical education programs that could be integrated with broader wellness strategies and health curriculum in elementary and secondary schools. The Illinois Public Health Institute was represented on the task force and provided staff support.

TF_reportIn its final report, the Enhance P.E. Task Force proposed revised learning standards for physical development and health, which were adopted by the State Board of Education in January 2013 and will be implemented in the 2015-16 school year.

The revisions helped move P.E. in Illinois to an enhanced P.E. model, focusing on health and fitness, cooperation, and the building of life-long skills instead of sports and competition. The revised standards integrated findings from the neuroscience research and are aimed at helping students understand the influence of fitness and physical activity on health, academic achievement and behavior. The Task Force also made several recommendations for promoting enhanced P.E. in Illinois.

One of the recommendations was to develop and utilize metrics to assess the impact of enhanced P.E., and the report included a recommendation that schools adopt the Presidential Youth Fitness Program and its Fitnessgram measurement program. The recommendation led to continued discussions by legislators and P.E. advocates across the state – with the Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI) and the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity (which is administered by IPHI) at the forefront of the effort – and Public Act 98-0859 was enacted to implement fitness testing in Illinois in the 2016-17 school year.

Public Act 098-0859 also established a 15-member Stakeholder and Expert Task Force on Physical Education (P.E.) composed of members representing organizations that represent physical education teachers, school officials, principals, health promotion and disease prevention advocates and experts, school health advocates and experts, and other experts with operational and academic expertise in the measurement of fitness. The Illinois Public Health Institute was represented on the Task Force and provided staff support.

StakeThis Task Force was charged with determining the components of fitness that will be assessed and the operational details around implementation, data collection and reporting. The Task Force submitted its final recommendations and report to ISBE on April 1, 2015, and after seeking public comment, ISBE adopted rules based on these recommendations.  These rules went into effect January 27th and were released on February 16th in the Illinois Register (Part 1, Section 1.425, pages 2991 and 3013-3016). Fitness testing will be required beginning in the 2016-17 school year and every year thereafter.

Enhanced P.E. Resources

Training: Pump Up P.E.: Promote Health, Learning & Lifelong Fitness

Through the Healthy Hotspot initiative, led by the Cook County Department of Public Health, IPHI developed Pump Up P.E.: Promote Health, Learning & Lifelong Fitness, a one-day, interactive training to provide physical educators on practical, immediately-applicable strategies to increase physical activity levels in school-based P.E. classes, implement the revised State Learning Standards and administer the fitness tests that will be required in the 2016-17 school year. Over 400 physical educators came though the program in the 2015-16 school year and more trainings will be held in the 2016-17 school year. Learn more and sign up for training schedule updates here.





The Illinois Enhanced P.E. Strategic Plan






The Illinois Enhance P.E. Task Force Final Report


The Illinois Enhance P.E. Task Force Executive Summary




The Stakeholder and Expert Task Force on Physical Education Final Report






Enhance PE fact sheet

Fact Sheet:

Enhancing Physical Education in Illinois: How investing in P.E. Yields Higher Learners





Research Summary

Research Summary:

Exploring the Link between Physical Activity, Fitness and Cognitive Function





Resource Guide

Enhanced P.E. Resource Guide:

This comprehensive guide provides links to resources related to Enhanced P.E., including professional development opportunities and classroom activities





  • New! Fitness Assessments in Illinois – Tools, Resources, and Information You Need. Access the recording here (registration required). Read description.
    A webinar to help P.E. teachers administer the required fitness assessments accurately and with fidelity to the Fitnessgram protocols, and to use assessment data to improve P.E. programming. It also helps administrators support fitness testing and communicate with their communities about the value of fitness assessments. Recorded on Tuesday, January 31, 2017.
  • New Laws & Standards to Pump Up P.E. in Illinois. Access the recording here (brief registration required). Read description.
    Since 2012, Illinois has been working to implement daily, high-quality enhanced physical education for all Illinois students in order to promote academic achievement and realize the lifetime benefits of fitness. This work has led to three new requirements related to P.E.: Extending “highly qualified” status to physical educators, revising the State Learning Standards on Physical Development & Health and administering fitness assessments in grades 3-12. This webinar was targeted to school superintendents, administrators, principals, curriculum staff and physical educators and explained  the “Enhanced Physical Education” intervention, provided information on the new P.E. developments/requirements for schools in IL, as well as  implementation guidance. This webinar featured an opening call to action from Jean Sophie, Superintendent of Schools, Lake Bluff School District 65 and a presentation by Marcey Siegel, Pump Up P.E. Teacher Trainer and Adjunct Instructor/University Supervisor, Benedictine University. Recorded on Wednesday, June 9, 2016.
  • Pump Up P.E.: Ways to Effectively Engage Parents. Access the recording here (brief registration required). Read description.
    Hosted by the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity’s workgroup on Childhood Nutrition & Physical Activity in Educational Settings, this webinar focused on  how physical educators can better engage parents as champions of physical education and school health. This webinar featured physical educators, school leaders, physicians, and a parent who have all worked to promote physical education and community health in partnership with schools. Participants learned practical strategies for when and how to engage parents and the role parents can plan in advocating for physical education and physical activity in schools. Originally recorded on Monday, January 25, 2016.
  • Enhancing P.E. in Illinois: An Overview of New Learning Standards and Physical Education Requirements. Access the recording here (brief registration required) Read description.
    On October 1st, 2014, this webinar provided information on the new learning standards for physical development and health and the requirements set forth in the two new laws related to physical education. The webinar provided a brief overview of requirements, the science behind them, and the basics of when/how they need to be implemented. This webinar was intended for superintendents, principals, school board members, other school officials, teacher preparation programs and health advocates looking to learn more about the changes to physical education requirements in schools. 
  • Enhancing P.E. in Illinois: Tips for Implementing the New Learning Standards for Physical Development and Health. Access the recording here (brief registration required).  Read description.
     This webinar provided tips for implementing the new learning standards in the schools and classrooms across the state. Deb Vogel and Sandy Noel, members of the Enhanced P.E. Task Force who worked on the revisions, led participants through a series of exercises aimed at helping them understand the changes and additions to the learning standards and how to adapt their class curriculum and activities to the new standards. This webinar was intended for teachers, curriculum specialists, school health advocates, and others working with schools to implement enhanced physical education. 
  • Enhanced P.E.: Making the Connection Between Physical Activity, Learning, Behavior & Health. Access the recording here. Read description.
     This 1 hour webinar featured members of the Enhance P.E. Taskforce, including the State Superintendent of Education and representatives from the Illinois Association of School Administrators, the Illinois Principals Association, and IAHPERD, with a keynote address provided by a leading physical education coordinator on the neuroscience that supports the RETURN ON INVESTMENT of enhancing P.E. in schools.Intended for superintendents, principals, school board members, and other school officials looking to improve student health and academic achievement, the webinar will help participants to understand the neuroscience research showing a connection between P.E./ physical activity and academic achievement, behavior and conduct, and health, describe how schools benefit from the allocation of dollars and time for P.E. and physical activity during the school day (the return on investment), and describe practical steps schools can take to enhance P.E./physical activity immediately, like encouraging more rigorous physical activity during existing P.E. and other movement time (e.g., recess).  
  • Exercise Your Mind: Collaborating To Enhance Physical Education In Illinois Schools. Access the recording here.Read description.
     This 1.5 hour webinar provides an overview of the goals and strategies of the Illinois Enhanced P.E. strategic Plan, published in June 2012. It also describes how P.E. has been redefined in recent years and practical ways in which this “new” P.E. can be implemented. The presenters share research demonstrating the link between physical activity and improved academic performance. Resources and tools for working with your school and community to support these changes are also provided. 


Case Studies – Enhancing P.E. in Illinois

LBAs a member of the Illinois Enhance P.E. Task Force, Superintendent Jean Sophie of Lake Bluff School District is proud that her staff encourages students to become active participants in their health by facilitating the development of individualized fitness plans and goals.



Unity_2Principle April Haar and her staff at Unity Point Elementary School have made health and wellness a priority through changes in their P.E. curriculum, school lunch menu, and their partnership with the Jackson County Health Department.




hon_2Dan Phelps, P.E. teacher at Hononegah High School identifies community partnerships as foundational to developing a withstanding physical education culture at his school. Phelps believes that it is the responsibility of physical educators like him to develop students’ lifelong fitness knowledge.



NaperNaperville Central High School’s Learning Readiness P.E. program has been engaging students in meaningful physical activity since 2003. Paul Zientarski, the coordinator at the school uses scientific evidence to show students and others that physical activity positively affects cognition.



The Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development at the Southern Illinois University of Medicine has helped facilitate improvements to P.E. in over 60 schools. Jeff Franklin, the project coordinator, believes enhanced P.E. is part of a comprehensive approach to improving student health and wellness in schools.




BelmBelmont-Cragin Elementary School in Chicago has been working to enhance P.E. and is now implementing Chicago Public School’s 30-20-10 program to provide 30 minutes of P.E., 20 minutes of recess, and 10 minutes of physical activity in the classroom each day.


Other resources

FitGet Fit & Flourish: Enhanced Physical Activity Manual

Developed by Golden Apple awardee Sandy Noel in collaboration with the Illinois Public Health Institute, this manual provides a variety of lesson plans and activities to help students develop the skills needed for life –long physical activity.   Read more.

 Each lesson, developed for K-8 students, focuses on the importance of team-building and cooperative learning and enhances the amount of time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.  Handouts include tips for families, and resources for getting students moving more in physical education class, after-school programs, and at home.   “The lesson plans are based on research and reflect the intricate web of interconnections between our brain and body, our basic and emotional needs, learning, memory, and performance.  Through movement and games, students gain an understanding of the importance of making healthy choices,” says Sandy Noel. This online resource is available free of charge and can be shared with all teachers, after-school program instructors, and others who wish to enhance the quality of physical activity and physical education for their students.