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TribBlog: Failing at Fitness

Less than a third of the state's 3rd-to-12th-grade students can pass a physical fitness test — and that’s an improvement.

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Less than a third of 3rd-to-12th-grade students can pass a physical fitness test, according to data released today by the Texas Education Agency — and that’s an improvement.

The data shows an increase in physical fitness for students in grades 3 through 8 since the 2007-2008 school year, when the state first started using the fitness test. Levels of fitness declined slightly at the high school level in the same time period.

Of the 2.9 million students who participated in the fitness tests in 2009-2010, 3rd-grade girls fared the best — 37.27 percent tested in the “healthy zone.” Girls in the 12th grade performed the worst, with only 8.07 percent deemed physically fit. Boys in the 3rd and 12th grade scored 30.98 percent and 8.54 percent, respectively. As students age, the data shows, their physical fitness declines, regardless of gender. 

In 2007, the Legislature passed SB 530, making Texas the first state to conduct annual fitness tests for students. The state uses the FITNESSGRAM Test, developed by the Cooper Institute in Dallas, to measure students’ physical fitness in five areas: body composition, aerobic capacity, strength, endurance and flexibility. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of the Cooper Institute, was a major proponent of the legislation, which was authored by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. 

“These annual fitness assessments clearly show that we must get back to the basics of ensuring the health of our children by promoting nutrition, fitness, and overall health in our schools,” Nelson said in a release. 

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