As Georgia’s public school children head back to the classroom this fall, they’ll find a new test on their schedules. But this exam is all about helping students find ways to be healthier, and it’s receiving rave reviews in Oconee County and beyond.
The Georgia legislature has mandated that all students (grades 1 through 12) who are enrolled in public school physical education (PE) classes be assessed with a physical fitness test. The results not only help in evaluating the effectiveness of PE programs, but they also help students and their parents understand where opportunities may exist for healthier choices.
The program, called Georgia SHAPE, supports students in setting fitness goals for themselves. The long-term goal is to encourage and empower young people to make healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices throughout their lives.
John A. Jackson, Ed.D., superintendent of Oconee County Schools, states, “Last spring, Oconee County High School participated in the pilot program, with very good results and great reviews from teachers. The program incorporates an assessment tool called Fitnessgram, which will be used to gather and report data, such as student body mass index, to state officials, who then develop reports to share with the community.”
Fitnessgram is a comprehensive, health-related physical fitness and activity assessment and computerized reporting system. It was developed by The Cooper Institute and is used by tens of thousands of schools nationwide. When schools participate in the SHAPE initiative, their PE teachers receive professional training about testing protocol and data entry, and they are supplied with the equipment, software and technical support needed to conduct the assessment in their school. Participants will also be eligible for the governor’s award and recognition program, which will provide exciting incentives for teachers and schools.
“The Fitnessgram report gives us an opportunity to open a dialogue with parents about the importance of health and fitness. Parents want what’s best for their children, and when we can provide them with personalized information and guidance regarding health, fitness and nutrition, everyone benefits,” said Deb Baber, Ed.D., a PE teacher in Bibb County.
Allen L. McCannon, Ed.D., superintendent of the Madison County School System, adds, “Children and parents will benefit from the program in several ways. Parents will receive reports detailing their child’s fitness level along with recommendations for improvement. These results encourage important conversations about physical health and fitness, and endorse a long-term view of health that promotes lifelong habits of physical activity.”
In addition, longer-term, consistent data collection on health-related fitness standards will establish baseline data, provide an opportunity to track and monitor trends, and enable the development of strategies to combat childhood obesity that are measurable and result driven.
Georgia is one of three states committed to boosting the health and wellness of all kids through a focus on the specific fitness measures most closely related to classroom performance and healthcare costs. The data-driven approach gives schools local control over programming and maximizes Georgia’s commitment to personal responsibility.
According to Jackson, “The reports will allow us here in Oconee to compare the relative physical fitness of our students to other students around the state, and will help us design fitness programs for youth in collaboration with other organizations. We believe that the SHAPE program supports our school system’s mission to help students reach their dreams and achieve their fullest potential. Healthy, active students are less likely to experience illnesses and injuries that impact their attendance and ultimately their overall academic progress. We are excited about the opportunity to implement the program system-wide!”
The State of Georgia has posted a Q&A site online at http://wcschools.drupalgardens.com/sites/wcschools.drupalgardens.com/files/SHAPE%20and%20Fitness%20FAQ%202011.pdf. FitnessGram information can be found at http://www.fitnessgram.net/Georgia/.
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