Georgia students have seen increased rigor in testing standards for all classes in the past few years, and now another subject joins the list — physical education.
Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the Student Health and Physical Education Act in April 2009, which requires all students in a P.E. course in first grade to senior year to have an annual fitness assessment starting during the 2011-2012 school year. The Fitness Assessment Advisory Committee was created to find an assessment program, and the state school board approved the new fitness program last week.
Fitnessgram tests each student’s aerobic capacity, flexibility, muscular strength, muscular endurance and body composition. Five schools will be chosen as pilot districts for this fall, and all Georgia schools will start the program in fall 2011.
“We looked at various assessments and parameters and made this recommendation because it is a criterion-referenced assessment,” said Therese McGuire, program specialist for Georgia’s Department of Education health and physical education office. “It sets goals for individual students to achieve, instead of a norm-referenced test. It’s not children against children, and there’s no bell curve.”
Students can either fall in the Healthy Fitness Zone or the Needs Improvement category for each of the five fitness areas. Some school systems have already implemented Fitnessgram, but this move will bring the program statewide.
“It’s a research-based program, and there aren’t that many fitness assessments out there that include a group of component tests,” McGuire said.
Under the proposed pilot program, students will be tested once a year. A report will be sent home to students and parents, which shows where the student falls in each category and provides personalized suggestions to develop an individual fitness plan based on the scores. The standards are set for males and females of different ages and heights.
The state Department of Education is partnering with the Governor’s Office and the Georgia Children’s Health Alliance to get the program started.
“We come to the table to help with the actual implementation of testing within the schools,” said Lucy Klausner, executive director of child health promotion at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “We’ll be putting the details around training the teachers and communicating the importance of what we’re doing with the parents.”
The program will also help the state to look at health statistics for children in a way it never has before.
“It’ll start to help us put together the bigger picture of the health of our children,” she said. “It’s a way to collect information consistently across the state. It gives the opportunity to bring in schools not using the program and refresh those who are already using it to make sure we are all performing in the same way.”