By Joe Huber

Standards = Certification = Recognition and Parity


When the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) passed nearly 18 years ago, the U.S. Congress not only included physical education within the defmition of special education but also stressed that physical education services be provided by qualified professionals. The qualified professional was fIrst defined by the Federal Register (August 23, 1977) to be "a person who has met State educational agency approved or recognized certifIcation, licensing, registration, or other comparable requirements." It was assumed that shortly after the IDEA passed, states would make a concerted effort to develop professional standards forpreparing teachers of adapted physical education.

However, at last year's National Association of State Directors of. Special Education (NASDSE) Action Seminar on Physical Education and Sports for Students with Disabilities, it was concluded that not all states have defIned who is qualifIed to provide physical education to students with disabilities (The Liaison Bulletin, August, 1991). Furthermore, in most colleges and universities, students are required to take only one introductory course in adapted physical education as part of the general physical education curriculum. Teachereducatorsoftencomment that one course is totally. inadequate to address the psychomotor needs of all categories and levels of disabled students from ages 3 to 21.

To date, only 13 states offer an official designation for the adapted physical education specialist (e.g., certifIcation, endorsement); moreover, requirements can vary dramatically from state to state. Some colleges and universities prescribe just one course in adapted physical education for the specialist, whereas others require students to take as many as 12 to 18 hours of course work in the field. Further, state educational agencies across the country often endorse as many as seven special certification categories to effectively address the educational classroom needs of all disabled students.

To further complicate the situation, it is notuncommon during theserecessionary times to hear of professionals with no formal preparation conducting classes in adapted physical education. Forexample, in some states elementary classroom teachers and/or occupational and physical therapists are assigned to address the physical fItness and motor skill needs of children with marked developmental delays.

When such inconsistent professional standards and practices exist, fundamental differences in quality between classroom instruction and instruction in physical education will remain. Parity between special education and adapted physical education services will not be achieved in the 1900s until both professional standards and national and state certification of teachers of adapted physical education are achieved. Dr. John Dunn of Oregon State University states that "Professionals need recognition through certifIcation. This enhances their perception of self and the value of their service, allows for equal footing with their professionals, assures equivalency in training and discourages the self-anointed status (The Liaison Bulletin, August 1991)."

One of the outcomes of NASDSE's Action Seminar was to challenge the National Consortium onPhysicalEducation and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities (NCPERID) to defIne the competencies of qualifIed adapted physical educators. At NCPERID's 1991 annual meeting, Dr. Luke Kelly presented a plan that would not only establish professional standards for teachers of adapted physical education, but would also include a mechanism for creating a national certification examination.

NCPERID's endorsement of Kelly's plan has led to the U.S. OffIce ofEducation funding a Special Projects grant entitled National Standards for Adapted Physical Education.

It is anticipated that the development of professional standards and a national certification examination will take four years. The process will most certainly be a challenging one. Many professional and personal concerns will be debated throughout the process. Some of the key topics of discussion will likely include:

Final Word

It is hoped that adapted physical educators across the country will respond enthusiastically to Dr. Kelly's plan for developing national professional standards. Is it possible that, by the turn of the century, students majoring in physical education will study the history that led to development of professional standards and national certifIcation in adapted physical education? Moreover, will adapted physical education have obtained recognition as a national educational priority and parity with special education as a valued profession in all 50 states?