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2020 CAS - Comprehensive Health Standards Introduction

Colorado Academic Standards: All Students, All Standards

Purpose of Comprehensive Health and Physical Education

“In the great work of education, our physical condition, if not the first step in point of importance, is the first in order of time. On the broad and firm foundation of health alone can the loftiest and most enduring structures of the intellect be reared.” ~Horace Mann

"We know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of their capacity when the body is healthy and strong, and that hardy spirits and tough minds usually inhabit sound bodies." ~John F. Kennedy

Preparing students for the 21st century cannot be accomplished without a strong and sustained emphasis on all students’ health and wellness. It no is longer acceptable to think of “gym class” and “hygiene lessons.” Today’s world has exploded with physical, mental, and social influences that affect not only learning in school, but also the lifelong health of the citizens that schools are preparing for graduation. Health and physical education prepare students to function optimally as students, global citizens, and workers who demonstrate personal responsibility for one’s health and fitness through an active, healthy lifestyle that fosters a lifelong commitment to wellness. These standards encourage physical literacy, which is the ability to move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person[1], as well as, health literacy, which is the ability of individuals to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.[2]

Health education and physical education are separate disciplines, each with a distinct body of knowledge and skills. However, the two disciplines are naturally interdisciplinary and clearly complement and reinforce each other to support wellness. Schools have a unique role and responsibility to address both health and physical education from preschool through twelfth grade to instill and reinforce knowledge and skills needed to be healthy and achieve academically.

Colorado's comprehensive health and physical education standards lay out a vision for these vitally important disciplines, and describe what all students should know and be able to do at each grade level through eighth grade and in high school. The authors of this document were preschool through twelfth-grade educators, higher education professors, business representatives, and community members. The group developed a set of competencies starting with "the end in mind." What concepts and skills would a "prepared graduate" in the 21st century possess when he or she left high school? The answers to this question framed the work that led to the development of four standards in comprehensive health and physical education for preschool through twelfth grade.

Prepared Graduates in Comprehensive Health

  1. Apply knowledge and skills to engage in lifelong healthy eating.
  2. Apply knowledge and skills necessary to make personal decisions that promote healthy relationships and sexual and reproductive health.
  3. Apply knowledge and skills related to health promotion, disease prevention, and health maintenance.
  4. Utilize knowledge and skills to enhance mental, emotional, and social well-being.
  5. Apply knowledge and skills to make health-enhancing decisions regarding the use of marijuana, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
  6. Apply knowledge and skills that promote healthy, violence-free relationships.
  7. Apply personal safety knowledge and skills to prevent and treat injury.

Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education

Standards are the topical organization of an academic content area. The four standards of comprehensive health and physical education are:

1. Movement Competence and Understanding

Includes motor skills and movement patterns that teach skill and accuracy in a variety of routines, games, and activities that combine skills with movement; demonstrates the connection between body and brain function; and creates patterns for lifelong physical activity.

2. Physical and Personal Wellness

Includes physical activity, healthy eating, and sexual health and teaches lifelong habits and patterns for a fit, healthy, and optimal childhood and adulthood; examines society, media, family, and peer influence on wellness choices; practices decision-making and communication skills for personal responsibility for wellness; and identifies the consequences of physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and early sexual activity. Includes health promotion and disease prevention, and teaches responsibility and skills for personal health habits as well as behavior and disease prevention; sets personal goals for optimal health; examines common chronic and infectious diseases and causes; and recognizes the physical, mental, and social dimensions of personal health.

3. Social and Emotional Wellness

Includes mental, emotional, and social health skills to recognize and manage emotions, develop care and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, handle challenging situations constructively, resolve conflicts respectfully, manage stress, and make ethical and safe choices; examines internal and external influences on mental and social health; and identifies common mental and emotional health problems and their effect on physical health.

4. Prevention and Risk Management

Includes alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention; violence prevention; and safety; teaches skills to increase safe physical and social behavior in at home, in school, in the community, and in personal relationships; provides specific knowledge on avoidance of intentional and unintentional injuries; and practices decision-making and communication skills to avoid drug use, bullying, and dating violence.

The four standards are organized across comprehensive health and physical education in the following manner:

Comprehensive Health standards:

  1. Physical and Personal Wellness
  2. Social and Emotional Wellness
  3. Prevention and Risk Management

Physical Education standards:

  1. Movement and Competence Understanding
  2. Physical and Personal Wellness
  3. Social and Emotional Wellness
  4. Prevention and Risk Management

General Considerations for Health Education:

There has been a shift in the focus of health education instruction in the last few years. In the past, health education was very much focused on health knowledge. The current state of health education encourages comprehensive skills-based health education that addresses multiple behaviors through instruction that ensures that information is medically accurate and developmentally appropriate, while allowing students to have multiple opportunities to learn, practice, and reinforce their learning and skills to support transfer beyond the classroom. The essential health skills of accessing information, analyzing influences, decision making, goal setting, interpersonal communication, self-management, and advocacy are foundational component to the comprehensive health education standards. These standards ultimately focus on supporting healthy behaviors, life-long health, and wellness.

In revising the health education standards, the authors fully acknowledge that local school districts may need to make modifications based on local courses, infrastructure, and available resources. The standards and evidence outcomes are intended to guide the health education experience of students’ PK-12 and are not intended to be a checklist, but are used to frame objectives for a standard and to provide guidance for teaching health concepts and skills. As part of the revision process, the committee identified the key health skills for each grade level expectation. This provides a specific skill focus across all grade levels.

It is important to note that local data and students’ needs should drive the focus of the health education at the local level. With constantly changing health concerns regarding behaviors and drug use, it is up to the local communities to address their specific local needs regarding priority behaviors and drug use. The standards related to drug use prevention are intended to guide specific skills regarding the prevention of drug use. The specific drugs identified in the standards are not limiting, prioritized, or, comprehensive, and local schools and districts should identify their areas of focus on based on local data.

[1] SHAPE America Physical Literacy. SHAPE America. [Online]

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is Health Literacy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Online]