State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Reports Slight Decline in Students’ Physical Fitness Test Results; Asks Schools, Parents to Maintain Focus on Healthy Kids
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reported today that the percentage of students who met the Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) performance standards declined slightly compared to the previous two years, according to the results of the 2015-16 Physical Fitness Test (PFT).
“Good nutrition, proper rest, and exercise are key ingredients for success in the classroom and in life,” Torlakson said. “This year’s Physical Fitness Test results, which are down very slightly, remind all of us as educators, parents and community leaders that we need to convey this message to our children. One of the best ways to do that is by eating healthy foods and exercising so we can serve as role models for healthy living, not only for the sake of our children, but also for the future health of our communities and our state.”
Overall, slightly more students participated in the PFT during the 2015–16 school year than the previous year, with more than 1.3 million students in grades five (459,715), seven (448,442), and nine (440,139) taking the FITNESSGRAM®, a series of six separate tests that measure aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extensor strength, upper body strength, and flexibility (Table 1).
Approximately 25.9 percent of students in grade five, 32.1 percent of students in grade seven, and 36.7 percent of students in grade nine scored at the highest levels, called the HFZ. This represents levels of fitness that offer protection against diseases resulting from sedentary living (Table 2).
Those levels are down slightly in all grades compared with the previous two school years. The multi-year comparison is available on Table 3. Slight gains were recorded in the Body Composition fitness area in grades five and seven. Body Composition is one of the six areas assessed annually and considered among the most important gauges of health (Table 4).
Torlakson, a former high school cross country and track coach and an avid runner, has made youth health and fitness a priority of his public service career. As a state legislator for 14 years, Torlakson authored several bills to increase student physical fitness education and standards, increase accountability in fitness testing, and promote collaboration between schools and local recreation and park districts.
“If we don’t change eating and exercise habits, we will continue to see a portion of our students afflicted with diabetes and heart disease,” Torlakson said. “Healthy, active, and well-nourished children are more likely to attend school and are more prepared and motivated to learn. There is a direct correlation between good nutrition, exercise, student wellness, and the ability of our students to learn well.”
This is the 17th year for the reporting of physical fitness test results in California public schools. The program was first authorized in 1976 and reestablished in 1995 by Assembly Bill 265. The following year, the State Board of Education designated FITNESSGRAM® as the required physical fitness test to be administered to students in grades five, seven, and nine.
The 2015–16 physical fitness results for schools, school districts, counties, and the state are available on the California Department of Education (CDE) Physical Fitness Test Results Web page. More information is also available on the CDE Physical Fitness Testing Web page.