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Flunk fitness test, get mandatory P.E.

April 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
California lawmakers are worried about obesity and other health problems among young people, so over the coming week thousands of high school freshmen will be taking a physical fitness test. If the kids don't pass the test, it means a mandatory P.E. class.For years, California 9th graders have had to prove their fitness, but they never really faced any consequences for failing to meet the minimum state standards.

"There's really been no teeth behind the tests. The kids took it and assessed their own fitness level," explained physical education teacher Brian Prahl. "Now that this Senate bill has passed, it holds kids accountable for five of the six tests."

A state chart guides P.E. teachers on what students need to accomplish. For example, boys need to do 24-45 sit-ups, while girls have to do 18-32 within a specific time period. For push-ups, the guys must do 14-30, and the girls have to do half that. And boys have to run a mile in under nine-and-a-half minutes, and girls under 11 minutes.

It didn't seem hard, so I decided to do some of the tests. Last year, only 56 percent of California 9th-graders passed five of the six tests. It's clear running just one lap is a struggle for some. But I had a much tougher time with the push-ups -- and so did student Brea Garrett. She knows what's making her unfit.

"Computer. My mom knows. It's the computer. I like it. I can't lie," said Garrett. "The computer is a really good thing. I just need to be more active."

Students who don't meet the fitness standard must now take P.E. again next year and repeat the test. They could potentially have to take P.E. all four years - instead of the required two years - and miss out on other electives.

"Making them take it again isn't really the solution, because if they do find on their warm-ups, and do all the other stuff and do their points, and then to not pass the one test at the end of the year, it's not fair," said student DeAndre Jones.

Passing the fitness tests is not a requirement to graduate. But the state hopes students develop good fitness habits for life.

 

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