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Standards-based teaching and grading in physical education — April 2019


Could you provide information on standards-based teaching and standards-based grading in physical education?


Following an established REL West research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and resources on standards-based teaching and grading in physical education. The sources included ERIC, Google Scholar, and PsychInfo. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched for references through the most commonly used sources of research, but the list is not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance.

Research References

Avery, M., & Rettig, B. (2015). Teaching the middle school grade-level outcomes with standards-based instruction. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 86(7), 17–22. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This article focuses on the grade-level outcomes to be assessed on middle school (grades 6–8) physical education. Specifically, the article describes how to teach basic tactics and strategies while applying fundamental movement patterns to the various game and movement categories (invasion, net/wall, target, fielding/striking, dance/rhythms, & outdoor pursuits). The emphasis is on teaching for transfer and the application of movement skills and knowledge (National Standard 2), as well as on the establishment of a mastery climate where the emphasis is on individual improvement in small-group activities and deliberate practice tasks. In addition, sample formative assessments are provided related to the grade-level outcomes discussed.”

Chen, W. (2005). Examination of curricula, teaching practices, and assessment through national standards. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 10(2), 159–180. Retrieved from text available at

From the abstract: “This study examined to what degree the existing curricula, teaching practices, and assessments in 15 elementary physical education programs were aligned with the National Standards for Physical Education (NASPE, 1995) in the USA. Fifteen elementary physical education teachers voluntarily participated in this study. Data were gathered through observing 48 lessons while taking field notes, conducting 15 formal interviews with the teachers and collecting curriculum guides, unit and lesson plans and assessment sheets. The findings indicated that 12 teachers intentionally or unintentionally aligned their curriculums with the National Standards by designing an essential scope and progressive sequence for their programs. The teachers addressed Standards 1 and 2 in 35 observed lessons by providing outcome-oriented learning experiences that help students become competent in and knowledgeable about a variety of movement forms. Five teachers used assessment as an integral part of instruction to enhance the students’ skill competency and knowledge acquisition. This study suggests that professional development plays a paramount role in equipping teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary for implementing the Standards in practice.”

Fox, C. (2012). How teachers can use PE metrics for grading. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 83(5), 16–34. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Skill and knowledge tests typically represent less than half of students’ grades, whereas subjective evaluations of participation and effort, followed by attitude, skill, attendance, and dressing out represent the largest portion of the grade. More than half of all teachers use improvement as a basis for grading. However, improvement does not adequately reflect whether a student’s performance level is competent. In order to improve current assessment practices and accurately inform students and others about their level of performance, PE Metrics was developed. PE Metrics is a series of valid, reliable, and useful assessments designed to measure student achievement of the national standards in physical education. This article explains what and how to grade using PE Metrics and presents three examples of grading procedures.”

Greer, F., & Gilbert, J. N. (2006). Standards-based activities for elementary physical education. Teaching Elementary Physical Education, 17(2), 18–24. Retrieved from Full text available at

From the abstract: “The number of overweight and obese youth has been increasing dramatically in recent decades, and there is no sign the trend is ending (Ogden, Legal, Carroll, & Johnson, 2002). Many factors have been suggested as causes, including decreased physical activity, more television viewing, and larger portion sizes. Exercise behaviors and attitudes developed at an early age, such as in elementary school, lay the groundwork for a lifetime of exercise involvement or, sadly, a lifetime of physical inactivity. Therefore, physical education programs may be a potentially important channel through which physical activity and fitness can be promoted (Carter, 2002). The lack of specialized training for multiple-subject elementary classroom teachers hinders the quality of physical education they can offer to their students. Limited financial resources and lack of equipment also contribute to this problem. The purpose of this article is to suggest developmentally appropriate physical activities that elementary classroom teachers can use to deliver quality physical education instruction to their students. The activities presented rely on minimal equipment and were chosen based on their ease of use, high level of student engagement, and direct relation to the National Standards. The activities selected relate to six main areas: quick movement activities, low organized activities, cooperative activities, fitness activities, partner activities, and small group activities. The format for each section includes an introductory paragraph with information that explains the category as well as a justification for why it was chosen and when/how it can be used.”

Mavrek, S., Pieters, L., Peterson-Pressler, L., Bentley, T., & Cameron, J. L. (2011). National standards for physical education are used to develop physically-educated individuals who have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to enjoy lifelong healthy physical activity. How do the standards play a role in your daily PE program? Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, 24(4), 6–9. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This article presents ideas and suggestions from various physical educators regarding how the National Standards for Physical Education play a role in their daily PE program. One educator shares that in her middle school’s physical education program, students who demonstrate competency in many movement forms (and proficiency in a few movement forms) are required to do so in physical activities ranging from traditional sports and games to cooperative games and dance. Another educator mentions that the National Standards in Physical Education give direction and guidance to teachers on a daily basis as they develop units of instruction and daily lesson plans. While programs may vary based on the resources available, a standards-based curriculum provides clear goals and objectives for teachers. Still another educator uses the National Standards for PE to develop herself as a ‘physically-educated teacher who has the knowledge, skills and confidence to teach lifelong healthy physical activity.’”

Mears, D. (2009). Using Microsoft Excel to assess standards: A “Techtorial”: Article #2 in a 6-part series. Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, 22(5), 29–33. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Standards-based assessment is a term currently being used quite often in educational reform discussions. The philosophy behind this initiative is to utilize ‘standards’ or ‘benchmarks’ to focus instruction and assessments of student learning. The National Standards for Physical Education (NASPE, 2004) provide a framework to guide this process for physical education ensuring children receive developmentally appropriate instruction. The recent and ongoing development of the ‘PE Metrics’ series (NASPE, 2008) is also moving the profession closer to providing a curriculum where student learning is clearly measured and evaluated. However, the difficulty for the physical educator using a standards-based curriculum is how to articulate assessment performance to students and parents. A recent trend for providing this information is through the use of standards-based reports which document individual progress toward meeting curriculum outcomes. Microsoft Excel can be a powerful tool for assisting physical educators in not only maintaining records of student performance but also in creating individual standards-based reports easily and effectively. In this article, the author provides a ‘techtorial’ for using this software program to develop a reporting system for documenting student performance in relation to NASPE standards (NASPE, 2004).”

Melograno, V. J. (2007). Grading and report cards for standards-based physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 78(6), 45–53. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This article explores the realities of grading and report cards within the context of standards-based physical education (SBPE). Specific objectives are to (1) identify standards for conducting quality assessments, (2) examine grading issues and concerns, (3) present guidelines for grading in SBPE programs, and (4) exemplify grading and reporting schemes that emphasize clear reference points (content standards and learning targets). Teachers need to assess accurately and use assessment to benefit students, not merely to sort and grade students. The keys to quality assessment practices are built on five dimensions: a clear purpose, clear targets, sound design, effective communication, and student involvement. Teachers also need to decide the basis for grading, which ingredients to use, how factors will be weighted, degree of professional judgment, and relative emphasis on mastery and progress. This article offers practical guidelines for grading in SBPE that support learning and student success, and includes samples of an evaluation report and a report card that align with learning targets and standards.”

Mohnsen, B. (2006). Assessment and grading in physical education. Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, 20(2), 24–28. Retrieved from Full text available at

From the abstract: “This article discusses the basis for assessing and grading students in physical education. Although students should dress appropriately for physical education, be physically active during class time, and improve their fitness (e.g., mile-run time), these items are typically not included in the physical education content standards. The vast majority of school districts have based their physical education standards on the National Standards for Physical Education (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 2004). This is not to say that every state has adopted all six national standards, or that the wording is the same. But the intent of the standards has gathered widespread acceptance by most states. That being said, teachers need to look directly at the standards to determine the manner in which they should grade students. Using physical education standards for grading is known as ‘standards-based’ grading, and it is endorsed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (BPTS). Once teachers begin to use standards-based assessment, it is time to consider using rubrics instead of grades. Grades have come to mean many things to different people (i.e., good students get good grades). When using rubrics, a shift occurs away from simply rewarding students with grades, to documenting the quality of their performances or learning. As educational reform of assessment has occurred, rubrics, or scoring guides, have emerged as a consistent and fair method for explicitly stating what students are expected to achieve.”

Scrabis-Fletcher, K. A. (2016). Integrating common core content into physical education: Creating new knowledge connections. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 87(7), 20–26. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Recent trends highlight the connection between engagement in physical activity and cognitive function. This is a key point to consider when designing physical education curricula and the activities that are included. By exposing students to material in a variety of ways students’ interest can be sparked, yielding greater learning and understanding of material. Physical education classes are an ideal context for integrating multiple subjects because of the variety of outlets for practice and broad topics that can be covered. With the push for standards-based learning and high-stakes testing, teachers in all subject areas are being urged to find new ways to integrate concepts in their classes. With creativity, flexibility and basic knowledge in a wide variety of content areas, physical education teachers can reinforce concepts through tasks that allow students to truly engage with the content. This article highlights current research and provides examples for the integration of fourth-grade New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards into the physical education curriculum in an effort to help teachers advocate for more physical education time.”

Additional Organization to Consult

Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) –

From the website: SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators is the nation’s largest membership organization of health and physical education professionals. Since its founding in 1885, the organization has defined excellence in physical education, and our National Standards for K–12 Physical Education serve as the foundation for well-designed physical education programs across the country. We provide programs, resources and advocacy to support health and physical educators at every level, from preschool to university graduate programs.


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used:

[(“Standards-based”) AND (“instruction” OR “teaching” OR “curriculum” OR “grading”)] AND (“physical education” OR “PE”); [(“SBPE”) AND (“instruction” OR “teaching” OR “curriculum” OR “grading”)]; [(“standards-based”) AND (“physical education” OR “PE”)]; (“SBPE”)

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and selecting resources to include, we consider the criteria listed below.

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published within the last 15 years, from 2004 to present, were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations and academic databases. Priority is also given to sources that provide free access to the full article.
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study designs, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, and we may also include descriptive data analyses, survey results, mixed-methods studies, literature reviews, or meta-analyses. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality. Priority is given to publications that are peer-reviewed journal articles or reports reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations. If there are many research reports available, we select those with the strongest methodology, or the most recent of similar reports. When there are fewer resources available, we may include a broader range of information. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the West Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd. This memorandum was prepared by REL West under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0012, administered by WestEd. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.