I'm responding to The Sun's recent article on Maryland schools and how highly they are ranked by Education Week ("Maryland's schools rank No. 1 fifth year in a row," Jan. 10). It's wonderful that Education Week magazine named Maryland's public schools top in the country again. Students, teachers, education leaders and elected officials should be proud of this recognition. As a parent with two children in public school, I know I am. However, there are important areas where our education system is failing our students.

According to the Maryland Association of Health, Physical Education and Dance's (MAHPERD) Report Card on the Status of Physical Education, Health Education and Dance Education, Maryland's public schools received an "F" in the area of adequate time for physical education in elementary schools. Currently, elementary students have, on average, only 30-90 minutes per week of physical education. The national recommendations are a minimum of 150 minutes per week.

Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last 30 years, and lack of physical activity is a significant contributor. Schools can play a critical role in reversing this trend by providing more time for physical education to help students be physically fit. Data shows that students who are more physically fit do better in school, have higher test scores, lower absenteeism and fewer disciplinary actions, and have lower risks for obesity and chronic diseases. Our education leaders and elected officials need to make it a priority to increase time for physical education in our schools. Maryland students are counting on them.

Sherry McCammon, Baltimore

The writer is District of Columbia and Maryland grassroots manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

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