Texas School Kids Fail Statewide Fitness Test

Texas kids are out of shape. And The older they get, the worse they become. That is according to the first statewide physical fitness test of public schoolchildren. Pat Hernandez tells us the findings are evidence that more physical exercise in schools is in order.
Based on evaluations of nearly 3-million students in grades three through 12, the testing found fitness levels drop with each passing grade. Elementary-age kids perform the best. The tests conducted last school year and tailored to students based on age and gender included push-ups, curls, trunk lifts, shoulder stretches, a 1-mile run and a skin fold test. Doctor Kenneth Cooper, the father of aerobics, founded the Cooper Institute. They've been testing children all over the world since 1982 using the FITNESSGRAM.

"Which essentially tests for fitness, fatness, flexibility, strength, six different tests. In order to pass this test, we don't call it passing. We call it reaching a healthy fitness zone, all you have to do is rank in the top 80-percentile. And we have found that in testing children from the third grade up to the 12th grade, there was an alarming decrease in the number of children that could pass this test, or reach the healthy fitness zone, and one of the worst responses was in the senior students."

Experts will use the data to establish links between health, academic performance, attendance and behavior. In fact, a national report last year found Texas ranked 6th among states with the highest obesity rates for children ages 10-17.

"With your obesity problems, if you try to eliminate P.E., as we did with 'No Child Left Behind', and replace it with math and English and science and reading, it didn't improve the grades. Look what happened to TAKS. If we want to improve the academic grades in this state, the best way to do that, is to improve their fitness and we can do it."

Terry Abbott with the Houston Independent School District says a town hall meeting is to be held with parents in September to explain what is expected of students when it comes to physical fitness.

"We felt like that we need to put together frankly, a series of town hall meetings with parents, about the role of exercise and their children's lives. You know, there are studies coming out now that link physical activity with academic performance."

"That relationship is undeniable because we've been testing children in California with this program since 1999, and we found perfect correlations between the number of tests that they passed in the FITNESSGRAM tests, and the grades they make in school in math, reading and English language."

Dr Cooper says at least 15-states are showing an interest in the Institute's program to evaluate their schoolchildren. Pat Hernandez, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...