By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource
Only one in three California students earned a “fit” rating in the annual physical fitness test given to more than 1 million fifth, seventh and ninth grade students, according to 2012-13 test results released Wednesday.
About 26 percent of fifth graders, 32 percent of seventh graders, and 37 percent of ninth graders scored in the “Healthy Fitness Zone,” a measure defined by the creators of the California Physical Fitness Test, for all six areas: aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extensor strength, upper body strength, and flexibility.
In the test, a 10-year-old boy, for example, would be evaluated on his ability to perform a minimum of 12 curl-ups and seven push-ups within a specified time and to run a mile as fast as possible, or run back and forth in a 20-meter distance for as long as possible. Students 13 and older are given the option of walking a mile as fast as possible.
Physical education programs and recess have been cut back in recent years because of budget cuts and the pressure to maximize classroom test preparation. Results of the fitness tests are available by county, school, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic level at the Department of Education’s DataQuest website.
Overall, students made slight improvements in aerobic capacity and body mass index, compared to 2011-12 data, and held relatively steady in the measures of strength, endurance and flexibility. Nearly 94 percent of all students enrolled in fifth, seventh and ninth grade in public schools took the test – some 1.34 million students.
“I’m pleased to see the slow shift toward better health continue, but when only about a third of our students are physically fit, we are nowhere near the end of this effort,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who spoke about fitness on Wednesday at John Muir Fundamental Elementary School in Orange County, said in a statement.
“The simple fact is that healthy kids learn better,” Torlakson said. “To help them succeed in school and in life, California’s young people need more access to physical activity, fresh, healthy food, and clean water.”