Skip to content
Printer-friendly version

Q and A Regarding High School PE Exemptions

Questions and answers regarding exempting high school students from Physical Education courses and changes to these exemptions due to Senate Bill 78 (effective July 1, 2007) and Senate Bill 601 (effective January 1, 2008).
  1. How often should high school students be participating in physical education courses?
  2. What are the state high school graduation physical education course requirements?
  3. What are the three distinct and separate exemptions available under California Education Code Section 51241. Each exemption is described below?
  4. What physical education courses shall be available for high school students who have been exempted from two years of physical education?
  5. Who can exempt a student from physical education?
  6. How should school districts define “passed” in order to determine if their high school students can qualify for the two-year exemption?
  7. Which students are affected by changes in California Education Code Section 51241 with the passage of Senate Bill 78 (Chaptered September 23, 2003) and Senate Bill 601 (Chaptered October 14, 2007)? Note that these bills affected the two-year exemption, not the temporary or permanent exemptions.
  8. What are the state reporting requirements if a district elects to use the two-year exemption?
  9. Who has the authority to grant an exemption for high school students to take less than four years of physical education?  
  10. If a school district requires two years of physical education credits for the high school graduation requirements, has the district essentially invoked the two-year physical education exemption?
  11. Does a school district need to write specific policy regarding high school graduation requirements for physical education or should they just put the California Education Code into their local governing board policy?
  12. Can a local governing board grant a permanent exemption to all students?
  13. Are the costs related to administration of the annual physical fitness test for students in grades ten, eleven, and twelve reimbursable?
  14. Whose responsibility is it to monitor which students need to continue to take physical education if an LEA’s local governing board policy requires that the two-year exemption policy is in place?
  15. What is the testing window for students participating in the PFT in grades ten, eleven, and twelve?
  16. In order for a student to be eligible for an exemption under California Education Code (EC) Section 51241 [b][1], if a student does not met satisfactorily any five of the six standards of the physical performance test administered in grade nine pursuant to EC Section 60800 (a), does this student have to retake the entire physical performance test when participating in this test in grades ten, eleven, or twelve?
  17. How many times can a student participating in the PFT in grades ten, eleven, and twelve take the PFT?
  18. If a student met satisfactorily any five of the six standards of the physical performance test administered in grade nine pursuant to California Education Code Section 60800 and transfers to another school district, what proof is required to satisfy the two-year physical education exemption?
  19. If a student satisfactorily meets five of the six standards of the FITNESSGRAM® when administered in grades nine, ten, eleven, or twelve in another state or country, what proof may a district in California rely on to demonstrate the pupil has met these standards?
  1. How often should high school students be participating in physical education courses?

    “All pupils, except pupils excused or exempted pursuant to Section 51241, shall be required to attend upon the courses of physical education for a total period of time of not less than 400 minutes each 10 schooldays.” [California Education Code (EC) Section 51222 (a)]

    All students in grades seven to twelve inclusive must participate in physical education courses unless the pupil is excused from participation in accordance with the exceptions in EC sections 51222(a), 51241, or 51242.

    [Back to Top]

  2. What are the state high school graduation physical education course requirements?

    All students are required to complete two years of physical education in order to be eligible to graduate from high school, unless the pupil has been exempted pursuant to the provision of the California Education Code (EC). (EC Section 51225.3 [a][1][F])

    Local education agencies (LEAs) may require more than two years of physical education for high school students to graduate. (EC Section 51225.3 [a][1])

    [Back to Top]

  3. What are the three distinct and separate exemptions available under California Education Code (EC) Section 51241. Each exemption is described below?

    1. Temporary:

      “The governing board of a school district or the office of the county superintendent of schools of a county may grant temporary exemption to a pupil from courses in physical education, if the pupil is one of the following:  

      (1) Ill or injured and a modified program to meet the needs of the pupil cannot be provided.  

      (2) Enrolled for one-half, or less, of the work normally required of full-time pupils.” (EC Section 51241 [a][1][2])

    2. Two-year:

      “The governing board of a school district or the office of the county superintendent of schools of a county, with the consent of a pupil, may grant a pupil an exemption from courses in physical education for two years any time during grades ten to twelve, inclusive, if the pupil has met satisfactorily any five of the six standards of the physical performance test administered in grade nine pursuant to Section 60800.” (EC Section 51241 [b][1])

      Note that the standards are found on the PFT Administrative Documents Web page [FITNESSGRAM® Healthy Fitness Zones (HFZ)].

    3. Permanent:

      “The governing board of a school district or the office of the county superintendent of a county may grant permanent exemption from courses in physical education if the pupil complies with any one of the following:  

      (1) Is sixteen years of age or older and has been enrolled in the 10th grade for one academic year or longer.  

      (2) Is enrolled as a postgraduate pupil.  

      (3) Is enrolled in a juvenile home, ranch, camp, or forestry camp school where pupils are scheduled for recreation and exercise pursuant to the requirements of Section 4346 of Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations.” (EC Section 51241 [c][1][2][3])

    [Back to Top]

  4. What physical education courses shall be available for high school students who have been exempted from two years of physical education?

    “The governing board of each school district that maintains a high school and that elects to exempt pupils from required attendance in physical education courses pursuant to paragraph (1) or (2) or both of subdivision (b) of Section 51241 shall offer those pupils so exempted a variety of elective physical education courses of not less than 400 minutes each 10 schooldays.” (California Education Code sections 33352[b][7], 51220 [d], and 51222 [b])

    [Back to Top]

  5. Who can exempt a student from physical education?

    The governing board of a school district or the office of the county superintendent of schools may grant exemptions to pupils from courses in physical education if the pupil consents to such an exemption. (California Education Code sections 51241, 51242, and 51246)

    [Back to Top]

  6. How should school districts define “passed” in order to determine if their high school students can qualify for the two-year exemption?

    Senate Bill 601 (Chaptered October 14, 2007) amended California Education Code Section 51241 [b][1]. This amendment defined “passed” for purposes of the two-year exemption from high school physical education courses as “met satisfactorily any five of the six standards of the physical performance test administered in grade nine pursuant to Section 60800.”

    [Back to Top]

  7. Which students are affected by changes in California Education Code Section 51241 with the passage of Senate Bill 78 (Chaptered September 23, 2003) and Senate Bill 601 (Chaptered October 14, 2007)? Note that these bills affected the two-year exemption, not the temporary or permanent exemptions.

    Senate Bill 78 became effective on July 1, 2007. Therefore, for purposes of determining two-year exemptions, the law will apply to students who begin their 9th grade year on or after July 1, 2007. Senate Bill 601 became effective on January 1, 2008, and defined “passed” for purposes of the two-year exemption from high school physical education courses.

    [Back to Top]

  8. What are the state reporting requirements if a district elects to use the two-year exemption?

    There are no state reporting requirements related to students in grades ten, eleven, or twelve who participate in the PFT for purposes of eligibility for the two-year exemption.

    [Back to Top]

  9. Who has the authority to grant an exemption for high school students to take less than four years of physical education?  

    Only the governing board of a school district or the office of the county superintendent of schools of a county may grant exemptions.

    [Back to Top]

  10. If a school district requires two years of physical education credits for the high school graduation requirements, has the district essentially invoked the two-year physical education exemption?

    No. Exemptions may be granted to a pupil with the pupil’s consent only if the requirements set forth in California Education Code (EC) sections 51222(a), 51241, or 51242 are met. The district is required to offer courses in physical education to those students who do not qualify for an exemption or do not consent to an exemption. (EC sections 51220 and 51222)

    Districts must continue to offer students who are exempted under relevant EC, a variety of elective physical education courses for no less than 400 minutes every 10 school days. (EC sections 33352[b][6] and 51222[b])

    [Back to Top]

  11. Does a school district need to write specific policy regarding high school graduation requirements for physical education or should they just put the California Education Code into their local governing board policy?

    The governing board of a school district or the office of the county superintendent of schools determines the local governing board policy. Local educational agencies should contact their legal counsel for additional assistance on this issue.

    [Back to Top]

  12. Can a local governing board grant a permanent exemption to all students?

    A pupil may only be granted a permanent exemption if they meet the provisions of California Education Code Section 51241(c).

    [Back to Top]

  13. Are the costs related to administration of the annual physical fitness test for students in grades ten, eleven, and twelve reimbursable?

    There was no additional funding due to the changes made in California Education Code Section 51241 due to recent legislation (i.e., Senate Bill 78 and Senate Bill 601).

    [Back to Top]

  14. Whose responsibility is it to monitor which students need to continue to take physical education if a local educational agency ’s local governing board policy requires that the two-year exemption policy is in place?

    As is currently the practice, each local educational agency will be responsible for monitoring which high school students will continue to take physical education courses. If a pupil is not eligible for an exemption or does not consent to such exemption, he or she must continue to take or be offered physical education courses. (California Education Code sections 51222 and 51241)

    [Back to Top]

  15. What is the testing window for students participating in the PFT in grades ten, eleven, and twelve?

    California Education Code (EC) Section 60800 (a) addresses the physical performance testing window during the month of February, March, April, or May for students in grades five, seven, and nine. However, this EC does not address the testing window for students participating in the PFT in grades ten, eleven, and twelve. Therefore, the governing board of a school district or the office of the county superintendent of schools of a county has discretion for determining the testing window for students in grades ten, eleven, and twelve. (EC Section 51241 [e])

    [Back to Top]

  16. In order for a student to be eligible for an exemption under California Education Code (EC) Section 51241 [b][1], if a student does not met satisfactorily any five of the six standards of the physical performance test administered in grade nine pursuant to EC Section 60800 (a), does this student have to retake the entire physical performance test when participating in this test in grades ten, eleven, or twelve?

    The law only requires a student to pass each section once. Therefore, the governing board of a school district or the office of the county superintendent of schools of a county has the discretion whether the student must retake the entire test or take only those portions of the test that they did not meet satisfactorily. (EC Section 51241 [b][1])

    [Back to Top]

  17. How many times can a student participating in the PFT in grades ten, eleven, and twelve take the PFT?

    This is a local decision that should be made by the governing board of a school district or the office of the county superintendent of schools of a county. (California Education Code Section 51241 [e])

    [Back to Top]

  18. If a student met satisfactorily any five of the six standards of the physical performance test administered in grade nine pursuant to California Education Code Section 60800 and transfers to another school district, what proof is required to satisfy the two-year physical education exemption?

    California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 1044 states, “The district superintendent or the county superintendent of schools, as the case may be, shall require that the pupil's scores on each of the tests given him or her in the physical performance testing program be included in the pupil's cumulative record. This requirement may be met by maintaining the regular physical performance testing program card with the cumulative record form.” Therefore, the transferring school should provide the new school with the student’s physical fitness performance test scores as part of the student’s cumulative record.

    [Back to Top]

  19. If a student satisfactorily meets five of the six standards of the FITNESSGRAM® when administered in grades nine, ten, eleven, or twelve in another state or country, what proof may a district in California rely on to demonstrate the pupil has met these standards?

    This is a local decision. California has no jurisdiction over the reporting or recording of test scores by districts outside of the state. Therefore, the local district receiving the transferring student should rely on the verification normally produced within the district that administered the FITNESSGRAM®. This may be at the expense of the district receiving the transferring student.

    [Back to Top]

Questions:   Physical Fitness Test | PFT@cde.ca.gov | 916-445-9449
Download Free Readers