Missing gym

Does your child’s school have a gym teacher? Hundreds of Michigan schools do not. Here’s the list.

PHOTO: Getty images
Boy running a slalom race

For tens of thousands of Michigan school children, regular gym class is something they know exists, but haven’t experienced themselves.

Across the state about 500 schools — roughly 1 in 5 — do not have certified gym teachers. It’s a severe problem in Detroit where almost half the schools are without gym teachers, but the issue is not limited to the city or to traditional school districts.

A Chalkbeat analysis comparing data on physical education teachers to other state data shows that gym teachers are missing from suburban, rural, and urban districts as well as from charter schools.

Chalkbeat compared the list of all schools with certified physical education teachers to the state’s most recent school ranking list and identified  hundreds of schools without gym teachers.

The state school ranking list only includes schools that have at least two years of state testing data from at least 30 students who have been tested in two subjects so it doesn’t include new schools or those that serve a high percentage of children with severe disabilities but the analysis included 2,700 Michigan schools. 

Research shows physical activity is linked to better academic performance and a slew of other positive effects, yet gym class has been one of the first subjects to be cut in schools.

In Michigan, there are no laws requiring schools to offer recess. As for physical education, schools are required to offer the class, but the amount of time isn’t specified. That means that a school could limit gym class to once or twice a year.

“Physical education is required in public schools at all levels, but what that looks like is up to the local districts,” a state spokesman said. “In general, budget reasons prevent schools from hiring physical education-endorsed teachers, but schools also may have difficulty finding a teacher with the proper endorsement.”

Schools in Michigan are not judged by how long students spend in gym. Instead, they are heavily judged by how well students perform on math and reading exams. In response, schools have focused their resources on core subjects to make more time for instruction and test prep, cutting back on the arts and gym and cutting recess.

In fact, schools are so focused on testing that state legislators charged the Michigan Department of Education to cut it back in 2018. The Detroit district also approved a major reduction in testing this summer.

In Detroit, at least, the schools missing gym teachers might soon get them. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti announced earlier this month that there is money in the budget for every school in the district to have a gym teacher.

Look through the list of Michigan schools without a gym teacher below. Search by school or district. To see a list of schools that do have certified physical education teachers, and see which schools have more than one, click here

And then there were two

Michigan’s governor’s race will be Whitmer vs. Schuette. Here’s where they stand on education

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will face Republican Bill Schuette on November 6 in the race to become Michigan's next governor.

Former state Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Bill Schuette will face off in November in the race to become Michigan’s next governor.

The Associated Press called both races before 10 p.m. Tuesday as Whitmer coasted past two opponents in the Democratic primary and Schuette easily topped the four-candidate Republican field. 

The winner of the general election on November 6 will likely have an enormous impact on education across the state in coming years.

The next governor, who will replace term-limited Republican Rick Snyder, could preside over school closings. He or she could influence how schools are funded and measured, and could make crucial decisions about whether to expand preschool or address the rising costs of higher education.

Before the primary, Chalkbeat joined with a team of reporters from the Detroit Journalism Cooperative to interview six of the seven major-party candidates on a range of topics. We published their answers to key education questions, along with videos of the candidates’ education responses.

Schuette declined to participate in those interviews but later sent written answers to the questions. Unlike other candidates, his answers were not subjected to follow up questions.

Scroll down to read Whitmer and Schutte’s responses, edited for clarity and length. A full transcript of Whitmer’s answers to all of the questions in the hourlong interview is here.

Where they stand

Where candidates for governor in Michigan stand on major education issues

There’s a lot at stake for students, parents, and educators in this year’s Michigan governor’s race.

The next governor, who will replace term-limited Republican Rick Snyder, could determine everything from how schools are funded to how they’re measured and judged. Some candidates are considering shuttering low-performing schools across the state. Others have called for charter schools to get some additional oversight.

To see where major party candidates stand on crucial education issues, Chalkbeat joined with our partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative to ask candidates for their views on school funding, early childhood education, and paying for college.

All seven major-party candidates on the ballot in Michigan’s August 7 primary were invited to sit down with the journalism cooperative, which also includes Bridge Magazine, WDET Radio, Michigan Radio, Detroit Public Television, and New Michigan Media, to answer a range of questions.

Six candidates — three Democrats and three Republicans — accepted our invitation.

The one candidate who declined was Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is generally considered the Republican frontrunner. Schuette later submitted written answers that were added below, slightly edited for length. Because Schuette wasn’t interviewed in person, there was no opportunity, as there was with other candidates, to ask follow up questions or to insist that he answer the specific question he was asked.

The candidates were largely asked a standard set of questions. Read some of their answers — edited for length and clarity — below. Sort answers by candidate or see everyone’s answer to each question.

Or, to see the full responses to the education questions from candidates who were interviewed in person, watch videos of the interviews here.

(Full transcripts of the interviews, including answers to questions about roads, the environment and other issues are here).