Statewide Fitness Testing for Children

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

Texas kids were tested under a new state program.  That test found students all over Texas are failing, and their fitness decreases each grade level. By the time kids reach high school, only about nine percent are considered healthy.

Texas is the first state to implement the Fitnessgram test. 

Students were tested several months ago, and while most of the state received a failing grade, Ector County says their results are surprising.

"There's a problem nationally," Susan Nix, Health and Fitness Coordinator with the Ector County Independent School District, said. "It's a crisis, and I'm so proud of Texas for coming out and doing a full blown fitness test on all kids."

The Fitnessgram measures body composition, aerobic capacity, strength, endurance and flexibility.

"This is the most exciting mandate I can see happening, because it's going to affect them, not only in their fitness levels, but in their academic, their discipline, their attendance," Nix said. "So I think it's going to be a plus win for academics and E.C.I.S.D. as well."

But while most of the state shows low numbers, that's not the case in Ector County.

"E.C.I.S.D. jumped on board," Nix said. "We got it going and the kids were absolutely phenomenal. I was so impressed, so impressed with their testing."

Elementary students averaged 30 points above the state levels. The totals for 8th and 12th graders aren't in yet, but school leaders say they're well above the Texas average too.

"They got out there and they competed. It was amazing. and you know what? It became a talk of the school as to who did what, how hard they tried, they wanted to do it over again," Nix said.

What's the secret for their successful P.E. program?

"Lacrosse, field hockey, ultimate frisbee, and speed mitten, just things that they love to do that are fun and different and that they enjoy," Nix said. "That's the key, getting to enjoy it."

Even though Ector County performed well, childhood obesity is still a big problem.

"I tell you what is really scary, these kids aren't expected to outlive their parents," Nix said. "These kids that get so obese, they're going to die before their parents do. There's a big problem there."

School leaders say there's still work to be done here in West Texas in order to help children attain a healthy lifestyle.

"It's going to be a good thing in the longrun," Nix said. "It's going to take some time, but I hope it turns into a fad, and everybody wants to do it!"

2.6 million children in grades 3 through 12 were tested.  The T.E.A. says tests like the Fitnessgram give districts the opportunity to place a greater emphasis on physical education in higher grades.