Should Students Be Allowed to "Test Out" of Physical Education by Meeting a Fitness Standard Such as Fitnessgram?

JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, August 2009 | Go to article overview

Should Students Be Allowed to "Test Out" of Physical Education by Meeting a Fitness Standard Such as Fitnessgram?


The results of a Fitnessgram test only indicate the fitness level of a student at a particular time in the student's development. The Fitnessgram cannot determine mastery of necessary affective, cognitive, or psychomotor skills that will help students live a healthy and active lifestyle in the future. Rates of physical inactivity, and the health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles (e.g., obesity, diabetes, heart disease) are skyrocketing among American children and adults. Testing out of physical education would take away opportunities for students to exercise and be physically active during the school day. Without daily physical education classes, many students would not spend any time being physically active. Allowing students to test out of physical education would be irresponsible and would create one more opportunity for administrators to eliminate physical education from the curriculum. Instead of allowing students to test out of physical education, we need to work harder at making physical education mandatory for all students and developing better curricula that promote greater rates of lifelong physical activity for all students.

--Gregory J. Soukup, Sr., assistant professor, Kinesiology Department, University of the Incarnate Word., San Antonio, TX.

Although Fitnessgram is a valuable tool, fitness is not the only aspect of physical education. Physical education also involves teaching students motor skills, personal and social responsibility, games and sports rules, and lifelong activity. It is not completely fitness-based and should be credited for the other lifelong lessons that it has to offer. Schools should really consider what their students would be missing if they were allowed to test out of physical education.

--Staci Smithson, student, Blackburn College, Carlinville, IL

Absolutely not. As a physical education instructor, sport coach, and person who is involved in promoting fitness in many aspects, I cannot believe that anyone should support this idea. Helping young students understand the importance of ongoing fitness and health improvement is vital to their education. There are many factors that could contribute to a student doing well on a fitness test, but that does not mean he or she should be excused from the daily activities in a quality physical education program. Some students are genetically stronger, or faster, or have greater endurance than others. Some kids are involved in sports that might allow them to get into shape and test out well, but that does not mean they do not need to be exposed to other activities and types of fitness in an organized class. The fact is that Fitnessgram or any testing standard for physical fitness might serve as a good base for the minimal expectations of physical abilities, but should not be the peak. For a student to be satisfied with being able to complete that testing and "exempt" themselves from any more physical activity in a day is unthinkable. If we chose to allow testing out, then we are missing the boat on exposing students to what physical education really is.

--Ty McCard, strength and conditioning coach, Woodward Academy, Atlanta, GA, and graduate student, Georgia State University.

Although many physical educators would answer no to this question, there are two sides one might see to this issue. One view is that having "athletes" test out of physical education could be beneficial to classes everywhere. By removing the more active, more in-shape, or more proficient students from the class, physical education teachers would have the chance to truly focus on the students who need more attention in their motor development skills. Also, by allowing some students to test out, there would be more space, more equipment, and more one-on-one time for each student during the class period. This would be extremely beneficial to these students considering that physical education time has decreased. …

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