2014 Grants Challenge

Creating Opportunities For Physical Activity (COPA) - Peer Coach PE Program

COPA transforms Physical Education into a fun and engaging experience for all elementary school children. Children love COPA PE!


Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

We provide a full spectrum of care from leading-edge treatments to prevention programs that improve the health of our communities.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South Bay


Project will benefit schools in Artesia, Long Beach, and 4 additional LA County communities that have not been selected.

What is your idea/project in more detail?

COPA will change Physical Education in elementary schools across Los Angeles County. COPA is not the old-school style of PE that requires kids to do jumping jacks, sit-ups, and makes kids who are not so athletic feel ashamed and embarrassed when picked last. No, instead COPA welcomes kids of all ability levels and gets classrooms of kids and their teachers moving together.

Our project will:

- provide on-site training and peer-coaching for 150 elementary school teachers and their 3,650 students across 6 schools sites;

- launch an interactive website for on-going support of teachers and students;

- build a culture of physical activity around the schools by helping parents, teachers, and children launch fun, easy to implement activities.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Step 1: Identify Schools. We are currently identifying 6 urban public elementary schools that are located in lower-income communities within Los Angeles County (at the time of submission, 2 school districts are confirmed). We are selecting lower-income schools because historically, these schools have cut PE teachers from their budgets and have left PE Instruction to classroom teachers. The problem is that those classroom teachers have very little, to no training or experience in PE instruction or in outdoor classroom management skills. In the South Bay region of LA County, we have found that teachers in these communities are eager and willing to learn new techniques and skills to improve how they deliver PE.

Step 2: Conduct pre-assessment of Physical Education environment of each school campus. Present report of findings to school staff and parents.

Step 3: Meet with teachers at the school to recruit them into the program. Over our 11 year history, we have found that teachers are more engaged and supportive when it is a voluntary program. Our experience is that 90% of teachers at a school do in fact volunteer to participate in the COPA program.

Step 4: Conduct a large group teacher training at each participating school. Training will include laying out program expectations, introduction to web-based COPA support system, and having teachers play PE games, so they can be reminded of the joy of play.

Step 5: Begin one-on-one peer coaching with participating teachers at each school. Over the course of the year, each teacher and their students will receive 4 individually tailored, outdoor, peer coached PE sessions.

Step 6: Provide individually-tailored technical assistance to launch events/activities to promote PE/physical activity on campus. We will work with the school wellness committee, parents, teachers, students or any other stakeholder interested in physical activity – and provide technical assistance to improve the culture of PE/physical activity on the school campus. In the past, examples have included, launching a Walk to School Day event, creating a one-day Cardio-Carnival for students, designing a rainy-day schedule that still allows for PE instruction, training student leaders on organizing PE equipment.

Step 7: Conduct post-assessment of PE environment at each school. Provide report on improvements made during the school year and recommendations for future. Present findings to school and parents.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LIVE today? In 2050?

Decades ago, parents felt safe letting their children run freely in their neighborhoods, being active for hours before being called inside for dinner. That was the norm. Today, it simply isn’t happening. Right now, many if not most urban public elementary school children in LA County are NOT getting a chance to be active. In the communities COPA targets, parents just don’t feel safe having their kids run freely in their neighborhoods. On top of that, their children’s schools have cut their PE budgets, so children really can go days before they participate in any kind of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

COPA can change this for children. Today, COPA can make LA the healthiest place to live by reintroducing PE into schools in a fun, interactive, and all-inclusive way. It gives classroom teachers – who otherwise would be intimidated and unprepared – the tools and skills that they need to teach PE. It gives children an opportunity to learn proper movement skills and create a culture of activity within their own lives. COPA makes LA the healthiest place to live today because it teaches children – at a very young age – lifelong movement skills and the joy of being active.

COPA makes LA the healthiest place to live in 2050, because by then it will have created a generation of adults who will view daily physical activity as the norm. By 2050, COPA children today will be raising children of their own. They will have the expectation that their children will have PE instruction every day and they will instill this expectation in generations to come. By 2050, childhood obesity will no longer be an epidemic. The rates of childhood obesity will be so low that looking back, we will be shocked that we ever even allowed the rates to have been so high!

Whom will your project benefit?

Students’ enthusiasm for COPA PE is an eye-opener for teachers. They are able to interact with their students in a different, more relaxed setting than the classroom – through play! COPA means no one is waiting in lines and everyone has a piece of equipment, so there are fewer behavioral issues, which equates to higher motivation for both students and teachers. COPA is a positive PE experience for all.

In COPA, children in grades K-5 learn developmentally appropriate movement skills, personal responsibility, how to stay safe while playing, how to assess their own exertion, respect for others, cooperation, and teamwork. Schools that have been in COPA for several years, report decreases in childhood obesity and independent evaluations of the program across multiple school sites show that COPA increases the time children spend in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during a PE lesson.

“COPA taught me the value of exercise and how to make it fun…I feel that COPA has been a great addition to the school”.--Ray, 5th Grade COPA Student

Elementary school teachers benefit from the personal one-on-one peer coaching from a Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center (Providence) PE Specialist. 150 teachers will receive COPA’s PE curriculum (aligned with California PE Standards), have access to their school’s new PE equipment, the COPA website, and will receive instruction on developmentally appropriate motor skills and outdoor classroom management. Working with their Peer Coach, they observe, co-teach and then independently teach the PE lessons.

COPA helps teachers meet the longstanding state law in California of 200 minutes of PE every 10 days – an achievement that most schools are not reaching. COPA results show that there is an increase in the number of teachers who are confident in teaching PE and an increase in instructional time devoted to PE instruction. COPA also helps teachers achieve national standards of excellence in Physical Education instruction by making sure that at least 50% of their PE lesson is spent in MVPA.

“The COPA Peer Coach Program made me a better PE teacher. I learned that although PE is an activity and "fun" for students, it needs to be taught just as if I was teaching a math lesson in the classroom. I learned once students are given the exact steps to be successful they have more fun which makes teaching PE fun for me.”--COPA Teacher

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Providence will partner with 6 LA County elementary schools that have never had COPA, serve children who live in lower-income communities, have high rates of childhood obesity, and that don’t currently offer systematic implementation of Physical Education. Two partners are confirmed - John F. Kennedy School in Artesia (part of the ABC Unified School District) and Robin Samana, Director of Elementary and K-8 Schools at the Long Beach Unified School District to identify schools in the LBUSD. We are in discussions with additional schools to confirm more sites. The “added benefit” that the participating schools will bring is that they are ready and willing to make a change within their school to improve student health.

Three factors are critical to the success of our partnerships with participating schools.

1. Principal support. The Principal supports and encourages teachers to participate in this voluntary program. They need to create an atmosphere that supports PE as an added benefit to teachers – something that will keep their students more focused and that can improve academic achievement – rather than an added burden to the teachers’ schedules.

2. Teacher buy-in. We introduce the program to teachers and design a peer coach training schedule that accommodates their teaching schedule. 90% of teachers voluntarily enroll; 90% of enrollees complete the program.

3. Relationships between the teachers and the Peer Coach is critical to success. COPA teachers report high satisfaction with their relationships with their Peer Coach. A focus group of COPA teachers across 3 school districts agreed that the most significant factor in changing their instructional practice related to PE was their peer coach relationship. This is a direct result of the PE Specialist setting a tone of trust and openness. We know that most classroom teachers have little to no training in PE; we know that most teachers are apprehensive about taking a group of 30 kids outside with the expectation of teaching age-appropriate motor skills; and we know from our 11 years of experience that there are teachers who have their own personal memories of PE that are not so positive and that definitely don’t motivate them to teach PE themselves. The peer coach takes all of these factors into consideration, is able to work individually with the teacher and their students and build a relationship of trust and mutual respect that overcomes these barriers to teaching PE.

How will your project impact the LA2050 LIVE metrics?

Obesity rates

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

The ultimate goal of COPA is to decrease the prevalence of childhood obesity. This is especially important in many urban, low-income communities within Los Angeles County where the childhood obesity rates exceed that of the County, State, or Country.

It used to be the norm that children participated in daily PE classes, which was a factor in increasing activity levels and minimizing the risk of obesity. Now, school budgets have eliminated Physical Education teachers and by doing so often eliminate the one chance that some children have to be active and improve their motor skills. Classroom teachers are left to pick up the slack, yet they get little to no training in physical education instruction and their expertise in motor skills, outdoor classroom management and academic content standards is limited.

Daily physical activity is further compromised, because many parents do not let their children play outside after school because they feel their neighborhoods are unsafe for outdoor play.

COPA fills the void in Physical Education Instruction and gets children moving! It makes PE fun and engaging and trains elementary school classroom teachers to confidently and independently teach PE. Findings from a 3-year independent evaluation of COPA shows that the program increases children's moderate to vigorous physical activity during PE and increases the frequency and duration of PE lessons offered by teachers. In addition, some districts, where COPA has been offered for several years, show decreases in childhood obesity rates - the ultimate COPA goal!

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Through this project we will serve 150 elementary school classroom teachers and 3,650 students. Our evaluation to show success consists of a teacher survey and a PE School Assessment, as described below:

Teacher Survey

Our evaluation will look at changes in teacher knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors as it relates to Physical Education Instruction. Teachers will complete pre and post surveys at the beginning and end of the program that measure the following metrics:

1. frequency of PE instruction/per week

2. time spent in a PE lesson

3. attitudes towards PE instruction

4. perception of their relationship with their peer coach.

PE School Assessment

The PE Specialist will also conduct a pre and post assessment of the school’s PE environment. This school-wide assessment will measure the following metrics:

1. PE Equipment

o Do they have any? If so, what condition is it in?

o Is there a PE equipment storage area?

o How accessible is the PE equipment to teachers?

o How organized is the PE equipment storage area

2. Status of PE Instruction

o Is PE being done on campus? If so, how often? If not, what barriers to teachers/staff identify?

3. Champions of PE

o Are there champions of PE on campus?

o Is the school identifying and utilizing human resources to facilitate PE on campus? (for e.g. parent volunteers are a valuable resource. They can be used to help organize a PE storage shed; ease of finding and using equipment is a significant barrier identified by elementary school teachers.)

Results from the teacher survey and school PE assessment will be compiled for each school site and shared with the Principal, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders. This will also include recommendations for future improvements to improve the environment of PE on the school campus.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

COPA was developed by Providence in 2003 to help elementary school classroom teachers learn skills to teach PE and boost student activity levels.

Over the past 11 years, we have learned several lessons that have informed our project. Two of the most significant lessons include:

1. A one day group training for teachers is not enough to sustain PE lessons. While one day group trainings are wonderful for increasing awareness about PE and give teachers tools (flash cards, equipment, lesson plans) to teach PE, they don’t address the underlying issues of why the teacher does not increase PE Instruction after these training. The training does not increase confidence and teacher independence. A one day indoor training does not teach the teacher how to manage their children outside – something that can be very intimidating to a teacher that is used to the structure and order inside the classroom. It doesn’t give teachers hands-on experience with teaching motor skills to children and ultimately does not truly increase a teacher’s confidence in their ability to teach PE.

2. The Peer Coach Model works. COPA is based on a peer coach model – a model that is well recognized in other subject areas. Peer coaching is an effective staff development strategy because it is ongoing, specific to grade levels and subjects and creates a collaborative sense of community with the teachers at the school (Russo, 2004). The peer coach model promotes improvement in instructional performance because the relationship between the PE Specialist and the classroom teacher is built on mutual trust and respect, immediate feedback, and the consistency that facilitates changes in teacher attitudes and behavior related to physical education instruction (Prince et. al, 2010). Training through the peer coach model creates a sustainable project.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

We have already identified two school districts that each contains at least one school that is ready to implement COPA. We continue to dialogue with interested schools (and are open to new schools who find out about our program through this competition!) and will have them lined up and ready to start if we are fortunate enough to win this competition.

A Providence PE Specialist has been identified to lead this project, if we are selected. He has over 16 years experience providing PE training and staff development for teachers, and expertise in program delivery in the school settings. While at Providence, he has overseen the successful launch of COPA at 13 schools across 3 school districts, so he is well prepared to successfully launch the proposed program. He will coordinate all aspects of the program and provide the peer coaching to the teachers. He is already on staff with Providence and is ready to launch the LA2050 program, if awarded.

Our proposed schedule includes:

Month 1: Confirm sites, Meet with Principals

Month 2: Present program to teachers, Recruit Teachers, Conduct school PE pre-assessment, Conduct teacher pre-survey

Month 3: Initial Teacher Training which includes program orientation, introduction and explanation of the COPA Peer Coach Model, walk through webpage

Month 3-11: COPA Peer Coaching – individual peer-coaching of teachers

Month 5-12: Technical assistance to stakeholders

Month 12: Conduct teacher post-survey, Post school PE assessment

Month 12: Prepare and present end of year recap, recommendations.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

1. Securing 4 additional school sites. To overcome this challenge we have already started the dialogue with potential school sites. If we win the competition, we are also able to offer the program at no cost to the school district, which is appealing to interested schools. We expect that if awarded, we will have identified all of the 6 school sites and be ready to launch.

2. Space at school site itself. The school yard and the space available for PE often changes on the school campus. There may be construction, a special event, it may be raining, there may be poor air quality outside, etc. which may make certain areas of - or the entire - yard inaccessible. As part of the peer coaching, the PE Specialist works with the classroom teacher to teach them how to adapt to different scenarios so that “space” is never used again as an excuse to not offer PE.

3. Teacher Perceptions. When we make our initial presentation to teachers, we listen to their concerns about COPA changing their long-standing routine, or that this is just adding something else to their plate, or that they do not have enough time to do PE with all of the other mandates required by their District. Often these concerns are masking other concerns including fear of managing children outside the classroom and their own insecurities with being active. The key to getting over these barriers falls back on the relationship between the PE Specialist and the teachers. Initially this comes from letting the teachers express their concerns and then explaining to them that we are not going to just throw them outside with their students and expect them to lead PE on their own the very first time. We help them understand our peer coach model and how that we are there to be a resource to them and their students; we are not going to judge them, rate them, or chastise them during this process. Another factor that really helps with teacher recruitment is simply social pressure. As more and more teachers sign on to the COPA program, the remaining teachers begin to realize how much fun and how much support they are getting from the peer coach. Slowly, but surely more teachers come on board to the point where 90% of teachers sign-up.