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Mike Humphreys, Instructional Specialist for Health/Physical Education and Family Life Education, Alexandria City Public Schools

Under the recently reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there is much greater flexibility offered to school districts as to how they spend their Title IV, Part A dollars. For the first time schools and districts are able to allocate funding to enhance the “health and well-being” of the students they serve. This directly aligns with ESSA’s claim to be more supportive of the “whole child,” instead of simply pushing increased test scores. Some school districts have been able to claim these funds in the name of health/physical education initiatives, and I’m very proud to say that Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia is one of them.

What this took on my end was developing positive relationships with my colleagues at the Central Office and constantly pestering the financial gatekeepers so they would know I was in search of extra funding. I would routinely check-in with our Grants Coordinator, for instance, to see if he knew of any emerging opportunities which might allow for dollars in my direction. Once he had input into the Title IV grant and its destination, he was happy to contact me and shut me up for a while!

We are planning a three-pronged attack for spending this money and impacting students’ general health-related understanding. First, I’m able to purchase heart rate monitors and the latest software in the field to give students at four Title I schools extra motivation to get and stay active. Teachers will be able to project real-time readings for heart rate and other measurements pertaining to student activity levels. I’m also able to train the teachers on how to use this cutting –edge equipment. Second, we’re going to have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teachers at these schools trained in the “Catch a Rainbow Everyday” nutritional program. This will allow them to reach their students with weekly content regarding the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption, among other nutritional messaging. Funding will help to supply a colorful variety of vegetables for the students to sample while they learn how fruits and vegetables help them grow into healthy adults who enjoy a balanced diet. And finally, our division’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program will be used to support these nutrition and fitness efforts to encourage healthy habits. Students will receive incentives for participation in lessons, activities and challenges that promote healthy eating habits and encourage movement.

As student health and wellness are finally finding the spotlight in the K-12 school setting, ESSA’s spending flexibility is serving up just what the country needs. Our students must be taught how important it is that they are physically active and committed to their own well-being. We in ACPS are confident that these initiatives will combine to move the needle related to the growth of our students’ health and physical literacy. We consider ourselves lucky to have been able to secure these funds, and we have already begun the planning to utilize next year’s increased allocation!

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Comments

  1. Pingback: VA’s Alexandria City Public Schools Launches New Health/PE Initiatives Using ESSA Funds – 50 Million Strong

  2. Eric Fisher

    Hi Mike, as a health and physical education teacher candidate from West Chester University, I couldn’t agree more! Students deserve to understand the importance of nutrition and it is incredible the initiative you took to make a difference in the Alexandria City Public Schools. Would you say that it has been a success so far? As an effect of this happening, perhaps student lunches will become healthier for the students. Are you going to take it one step further and try and tackle the cafeteria food issue and have to provide students with healthier options from buying? From the schools that I have substitute taught at, there are only a handful of students that are buying lunches and the rest are packing. Food needs to be healthier and if not, students should be educated starting in elementary school on the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption! This brings me to ask you, what is the feedback you have received from students, colleagues, and parents from the Alexandria City Public Schools?

  3. Joseph Heffernan

    Hey Mike,

    I am a health and physical education teacher candidate from West Chester University and I wanted to say that I am happy that your hard work and pestering paid off for you. You had a certain goal in mind and it sounds like your drive and motivation would not stop you from reaching that goal. I love the push for educating our students with proper nutrition lessons. Students should learn from a young age about healthy eating habits so they can form their own healthy eating habits and train themselves on what is healthy to eat and what is not. We are currently learning about grants and how to apply for them and how they are used in our classes. I know that grants can do a lot for a school and it really is just to be familiar with them and which grants can benefit your school or your program. How long do you think it will take you and the school to reach the success that you want to with this grant? I am very inspired by you and your story because you are doing everything in your power to better the future of the students. I hope that you find immediate success with the program and thank you for the inspiring story.

  4. Tyler Charles Lipman

    Good Afternoon Mr. Humphreys,

    My name is Tyler Lipman, and I am a health and physical education candidate at West Chester University. I read your post and cannot agree more with what you had to say on the topic. Your hard work inside of the school and on your own time has really paid off and benefited the students. With ESSA allowing money to be allocated towards health and physical education, there are more opportunities being created to enhance student health and wellness. It is also important for all physical educators to do what you have been doing by being active in the pursuit for more funding, so thank you for setting a good example.

  5. Devon Hennessey

    Hello Mr. Humprheys, as a health and physical education candidate from West Chester University I think this topic is so important in schools nowadays. It is so important to start healthy habits when the students are young and with the funding, you are going to get to do that. It is such a cool idea to have the actual fruits and vegetables in the classrooms for the student’s to try when they are learning about it. Too many times students are not getting to try new things due to families being on the move so much for sports. I also thought using the heart rate monitors for all students is a huge benefit. Not only does it give the teacher information based on how much physical activity was participated in but also gives the students the drive and motivation to stay healthy. Thank you for continuing to ask for funding, not stopping until you received what you needed, and giving teacher candidates like me the chance to learn from you.

  6. Layla Elshimy

    Hello, I am currently a health and physical education teacher candidate at West Chester University. I am inspired by how you chose to use the Title IV grant in your school district. I especially liked how funding was being put toward educating 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teachers about the “Catch a Rainbow Everyday” nutritional program. I believe that getting teachers outside the health and physical education classrooms involved will be beneficial for students. I was wondering how you were able to advocate for this “three-pronged attack”. What did you do to encourage others to support this idea? Thank you for your time in advance.

  7. Morgan Gottel

    Hi Mike,
    I am a current West Chester University health and physical education teacher candidate, and while reading your post, it really inspired me to reach out to the teachers and get everyone on board with how important nutrition and healthy eating are. I think that every HPE teacher needs to expand themselves beyond the classroom and gym, and be able to reach students on all different levels. When the students see their teachers in different settings after a while, I feel as though they are so surprised and eager, that sometimes things stick better. I really look forward to hearing if you’ve had any success with this program! Thank you for your post.
    -Morgan

  8. Edward Joseph Albertson, V

    Hi Mike,

    My name is Eddy Albertson and I am a teacher candidate at West Chester University in the Health and Physical education department. Just recently we learned about the ESSA act and how to apply to accept grants for health and physical education programs. Being able to connect with colleagues and build relationships in your school district is advice that I believe will help me build a successful health and physical education program. I believe our country as a whole is starting to understand the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, and I believe this will help our physical education programs as a whole grow. Students receiving heart monitors seemed like an awesome way to notify students about their cardiovascular endurance. What activities worked best with feedback from the monitors? Thank you!