Lorrie Sullenberger News

O.C. students again struggle on fitness test

About two in five of Orange County school children passed the annual state fitness test, according to results released Wednesday.

The California Physical Fitness Test, administered in the spring to fifth-, seventh-, and ninth-graders, measures students in six categories – aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extension strength, upper body strength and flexibility.


Results show that 42,961 out of 108,899 county students tested, or 39 percent, passed all six measurements. Statewide, about 31 percent of students passed.

Both state and local scores dropped by about 2 percentage points from the previous year. But both sets of scores have improved steadily since 2001, the first year of the test. Ten years ago, about 29 percent of students tested locally passed all six sections, while 22 percent of students passed statewide.

The grade-by-grade results show students scoring better in higher grades.
Orange County results by grade:

  • Fifth-graders, 32.8 percent
  • Seventh-graders, 40.5 percent
  • Ninth-graders, 44 percent

Statewide results:

  • Fifth-graders, 25.2 percent
  • Seventh-graders, 32 percent
  • Ninth-graders, 36.8 percent

Irvine Unified, Los Alamitos Unified and Huntington Beach Union had among the most students passing all six sections of the test. Buena Park City, Anaheim City and Magnolia School District had among the fewest students passing.

Most students in 2011 struggled when asked to run or walk a mile. Many could not do enough pull-ups or sit-ups and had a high body fat composition.

Local and state educators blame this year's lower scores on the ongoing state budget cuts to education that have forced schools to cut funding for P.E. programs.

"Schools have to make tough decisions about how to fund programs like P.E., music and arts," county Superintendent William Habermehl said. "Many schools are now relying on parents and community groups to keep then afloat. At this rate, it's going to become tougher for fitness scores to continue growing."

The state Department of Education this year launched the program California for Healthy Kids, teaming up with former pro athletes including Bill Walton and other sports figures. The campaign links schools with community leaders and athletes to foster new partnerships and put a spotlight on local efforts to encourage students to get more exercise – both at school and at home.

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said he hopes school districts that have slashed P.E. budgets in recent years can use the program to better promote fitness.

Some schools in Orange County have found creative ways to improve their scores and overall children's health.

At Col. J.K. Tuffree Middle School in Placentia, teachers used a technology grant to purchase last year dozens of GPS devices they us to track students running distance and pace as they prepare for the fitness test.

This year after the GPS program was enacted, the rate of Tuffree students passing the fitness test doubled to 35 percent.

"We have students who formerly didn't put their full effort into their cardio workouts now attempting to set personal best marks each week. They've done an amazing job," Tuffree P.E. teacher Scott Davis said.

At Pioneer Middle School in Tustin, parent volunteers help run P.E. classes by organizing activities and running exercise drills. School officials credit parent volunteers for helping the campus earn a fitness test passing rate of 63 percent.

"It's a lot tougher today for kids to stay healthy with the increase in junk food, and television and video games constantly grabbing their attention," said Kim Nguyen, a parent volunteer at the school. "Schools also are losing a lot of their funding for P.E., so as a parent, I feel it's my obligation to help out when I can."

In school districts with high concentrations of low-income students and English learners, groups like the nonprofit Latino Health Access have worked with schools to help promote health and fitness.

The group, which also encourages parents to volunteer in schools, provides health screenings to uninsured families.

Saddleback Valley Unified began offering this year gluten-free meals for parents who request them for their children. Tustin Unified began three years ago limiting elementary school lunches to 650 calories and 30 percent fat. Some typical fare: reduced-fat cheese pizza, a pizza bagel or a cheeseburger with baked chips.

Contact the writer: 714-704-3773 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Source: http://www.ocregister.com/news/percent-329317-students-graders.html

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