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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (2015) includes physical education and health education as part of a “well-rounded” education that should be offered to all students. Physical education and health education have positive associations with academic growth and achievement, attention and concentration, and lifetime healthy habits. While physical education and health education offer complementary knowledge and skills, they are separate academic subjects with separate regulations, requirements, and standards.
Iowa's recommended physical education and health education standards were approved and adopted by the Iowa State Board of Education on March 28, 2019, based on public input and review team recommendations. Learn about the adoption process and access the final report on the Physical Education and Health Standards Review Team webpage.
Iowa adopted the National Health Standards of the Joint Committee on National Health Education Standards and performance indicators as Iowa’s recommended Health Education Standards The new recommended Health Education Standards encompass the Health Literacy Standards.
The Iowa Legislature established the 21st Century Skills of the Iowa Core in 2007, which included Health Literacy standards and learning goals. The Framework for 21st Century Learning stated, “We believe schools must move beyond a focus on basic competency in core subjects to promoting understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into core subjects” (2007). 21st Century Skills bridge the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of students from the core academic areas to real life application. The 21st Century Skills of the Iowa Core are set to be reviewed. Additional guidance on health standards and health literacy skills will be available after a final review.
Neither the recommended Health Education Standards nor the Health Literacy standards are or determine curriculum. Decisions about how to help students meet learning goals are at the local control of districts, schools, and teachers.
Health Education Compliance
Health education is required in kindergarten through 12th grade to teach from a multicultural, gender-fair approach with global perspectives incorporated at all levels in the education program. The education program requirements for human growth and development are written in law from kindergarten through 12th grade. The specific requirements from Iowa code and Iowa administrative rules are listed below:
- Human Growth and Development Instruction: Iowa Code 279.50
- Kindergarten Program Standards: Iowa Code 256.11; IAC 281-12.5(2)
- Grades 1st thru 6th Program Standards: Iowa Code 256.11; IAC 281-12.5(3)
- Grades 7th thru 8th Program Standards: Iowa Code 256.11; IAC 281-12.5(4)
- Grades 9th thru 12th Program Standards: Iowa Code 256.11; IAC 281-12.5(5)
Health Education Research and Resources
Iowa Code 2019, Section 256.9
School districts shall incorporate age-appropriate and research-based materials into relevant curricula and shall reinforce the importance of preventive measures when reasonable with parents and students.
School districts shall provide age-appropriate and research-based materials and a list of available community and internet-based resources to parents. School districts are encouraged to work with their communities to provide voluntary parent education sessions.
The following list contains examples of age-appropriate and research-based materials and resources which districts, schools, and parents may use to support health education. *Not intended to represent an exhaustive list. Resources should not be considered recommendations.