Jul 28, 2014
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Only One-Third of County’s Students Post Healthy Fitness Scores

The California Department of Education released its latest fitness test results for the 2011-2012 school year. How did San Mateo County do?

Only One-Third of County’s Students Post Healthy Fitness Scores

A sizeable majority of fifth, seventh and ninth graders in the San Mateo County school districts are not posting robust fitness scores, according to the latest fitness reports from the California Department of Education. Over one-quarter of these students also had their body composition labeled as “At Risk.”

The 2012 Physical Fitness Test was administered to approximately 1.3 million fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders, approximately 93 percent of the students enrolled in those grades throughout the state, with 17,566 students tested in San Mateo County.

The FITNESSGRAM test is designed to evaluate fitness performance has six individual tests including aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extensor strength, upper body strength, and flexibility.

The California State Board of Education designated the FITNESSGRAM in 1996 as the required Physical Fitness Test that local educational agencies administer to students annually in grades five, seven, and nine. State law requires all public schools in California to report these results in their School Accountability Report Cards and provide students with their individual results.

In San Mateo County, 34.3 percent of students passed all six tests, a little more than the state average of 31 percent.

“When we can call fewer than one out of three of our kids physically fit, we know we have a tremendous public health challenge on our hands,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. “It affects more than their health—study after study has demonstrated the very clear link between physical fitness and academic achievement.

# of Physical Fitness Areas Meeting HFZ# of Grade 5% in Grade 5# of Grade 7% in Grade 7# of Grade 96 of 6 2,085 31.5 2,263 35.3 1,639 5 of 6 1,602 24.2 1,516 23.6 1,171 4 of 6 1,208 18.3 1,148 17.9 820 3 of 6 879 13.3 760 11.8 545 2 of 6 553 8.4 476 7.4 259 1 of 6 238 3.6 200 3.1 85 0 of 6 44 0.7 51 0.8 24Total tested:6,6091006,4141004,543

These charts breakdown how the fifth, seventh and ninth graders did in each category, with students either in the “Healthy Fitness Zone,” “Needs Improvement,” or for two categories only, the third category: “Needs Improvement – At Risk.” 

Grade 5: 6,609 students tested 

Physical Fitness Area% in HFZ% in Needs Improvement% in Needs Improvement - High RiskTotal % in Needs ImprovementAerobic Capacity 72.1 20.6 7.3 27.9 Body Composition 57.0 13.5 29.5 43 Abdominal Strength 82.3 17.7 N/A 17.7 Truck Extension Strenth 87.8 12.2 N/A 12.2 Upper Body Strength 75.6 24.4 N/A 24.4 Flexibility 69.0 31.0 N/A 31 Grade 7: 6,414 students testedPhysical Fitness Area% in HFZ% in Needs Improvement% in Needs Improvement - High RiskTotal % in Needs ImprovementAerobic Capacity 71.6 19.4 9.0 28.4 Body Composition 60.5 13.9 25.6 39.5 Abdominal Strength 86.1 13.9 N/A 13.9 Truck Extension Strenth 86.9 13.1 N/A 13.1 Upper Body Strength 72.0 28.0 N/A 28.0 Flexibility 78.0 22.0 N/A 22.0 Grade 9: 4,543 students testedPhysical Fitness Area% in HFZ% in Needs Improvement% in Needs Improvement - High RiskTotal % in Needs ImprovementAerobic Capacity 67.9 20.6 11.5 32.1 Body Composition 61.0 14.1 24.9 39.0 Abdominal Strength 89.8 10.2 N/A 10.2 Truck Extension Strenth 91.3 8.7 N/A 8.7 Upper Body Strength 75.9 24.1 N/A 24.1 Flexibility 81.1 18.9 N/A 18.9


To test Aerobic Capacity, students are measured on a one-mile run. Body Composition is quantified by skinfold measurements. Abdominal Strenth and Endurance is measured by curl-ups, and Truck Extensor Strength and Flexibility is measured by a trunk lift (in inches.) Upper Body Strength and Endurance is measured by 90 degree push-ups, a modified pull-up and flexed arm hang. Lastly, Flexibility of measured by a sit-and-reach and a shoulder stretch (Touching fingertips together behind the back on both the right and left sides.)

How recorded scores are classified can be viewed in this PDF on the state’s website.

With shrinking school budgets, daily physical education programs and outdoor activities often do not make the cut. Many schools rely on nonprofit organizations to provide bi- or tri-weekly activity for students.

In July, the Redwood City School District formally partnered with the  Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department of Redwood City and the Peninsula Community Center to serve over 8,200 students in that district. 

However, Torlakson said he was pleased to observe that students generally became more fit as they grew older, scoring better in Grades 7 and 9 than they did as fifth graders.

Torlakson’s  Team California for Healthy Kids initiative engages celebrity athletes, community leaders, public health advocates, parents, teachers, and students to partner together to help students make healthy choices. 

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