by Claire Miller
A loud beep issues from the speaker system in the gym and they’re off. Students run from one point in the gym to another, trying to make it there before the next beep.
The time between the two beeps gets shorter each time, forcing the students to increase their speed as they go.
This exercise, known as the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) test, is one of many fitness tests administered in schools across Georgia to assess students’ fitness levels.
Starting in the 2011-2012 school year, physical education teachers in Georgia will be required to administer a set of five fitness tests that include the PACER every year to students in first through 12th grade using the Fitnessgram assessment and reporting system.
In the months leading up to this change, faculty in the College of Education and Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University are assisting the Department of Education (DOE) and other state leaders to evaluate the Fitnessgram system and determine the best ways to implement it.
More specifically, Kinesiology and Health faculty members Mike Metzler, Jeff Rupp and Shannon Williams are working with Rodney Lyn and Mary Ann Phillips from the Andrew Young School to assess the delivery of Fitnessgram training to teachers and to monitor how those teachers administer the tests to their students.
“The Department of Education is conducting this pilot program to determine the training protocol for the full Fitnessgram implementation that will happen this coming school year,” Metzler said. “We’re observing teachers as they test and trying to find ways they can be more efficient but still maintain a high level of accuracy.”
Metzler, Rupp and Williams have visited schools in four of the five counties where Fitnessgram is being piloted this year – Bibb, Gwinnett, Hall, and White – and collected data on how much teachers know about the Fitnessgram assessments, how well they follow protocol, and to gather other information, which will be compiled into a report to the DOE later this spring.
The GSU team hopes their findings will help make the test data more accurate and potentially influence public policy on children’s health and the management of school PE programs in the state.
“It’s very important that we know that teachers are properly trained and that they’re using that training so that we have a high level of confidence in the data they’re collecting,” Metzler said. “This will be another piece of information about the state of children’s fitness in Georgiathat could have some definite implications on health, physical education and school policy.”
Official Code of Georgia 20-2-777, legislation requiring that fitness tests be given each year, also stipulates that schools need to send written reports of students’ health-related fitness home to their parents – a step that may give families a chance to discuss health and wellness.
“It will be interesting to see over time if that makes parents more aware of their child’s activity levels and if they’re doing anything about it,” Williams said.
For more information about the Fitnessgram assessment and reporting system, visit www.fitnessgram.net/Georgia.