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The Cooper Institute's FITNESSGRAM Selected as Statewide Physical Fitness Assessment Tool

Texas Schools to Receive Program This Fall for Testing by End of School


RICHARDSON, Texas, Sept. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced today it has selected FITNESSGRAM(R), created by The Cooper Institute and published by Human Kinetics, as the statewide physical fitness assessment tool. The annual testing of more than four million Texas 3rd through 12th grade students is a new requirement detailed in Senate Bill 530 that also enhanced physical education (PE) activity for K-5th graders this school year.

"The Texas Education Agency, after a thorough evaluation, finds that the FITNESSGRAM meets the requirements for a physical assessment tool as outlined in SB 530. We are happy to work with all parties, including school districts, the state, private groups and others, to implement the FITNESSGRAM in public schools this school year. We believe this annual fitness assessment will help guide efforts to improve the health of Texas children," said Jeff Kloster, TEA's associate commissioner of Health, Safety and School Readiness.

FITNESSGRAM measures aerobic capacity, body composition, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility. Students do not "pass" or "fail" tests, rather the student's performance is evaluated against standards for a healthy level of fitness based on gender and age. The goal is for all students to achieve a "Health Fitness Zone" for each test. Each student's results are complied in a report and, when appropriate, suggestions for improvement are included.

More than 1,000 schools in Texas already use FITNESSGRAM including Arapaho Classical Magnet School in the Richardson Independent School District. Two dozen of its elementary students showcased the FITNESSGRAM tests during a "show and tell" at school today.

"Richardson ISD is pleased to host this event to stress the importance of exercise among young people," said Superintendent Dr. David Simmons. "Many of our campuses have been using the FITNESSGRAM as an assessment tool for more than a decade."

More than 8,000 public and private schools will receive the FITNESSGRAM program this fall to prepare for the first physical fitness testing period in the spring-which will act as a baseline. Students will then be tested annually to measure any improvements. Once the data is collected, it will be compared to existing data on students' academic achievement levels, attendance levels, obesity levels, disciplinary problems and meal programs, such as the number of students eating at the school cafeteria rather than bringing their lunch from home.

"There is a direct correlation between a student's physical fitness and school performance," said Dr. Kenneth Cooper, known as the "father of aerobics" and CEO of Cooper Aerobics Center, who helped create and pass SB 530. "Data shows that students who were able to achieve a Healthy Fitness Zone in at least five out of six FITNESSGRAM tests scored higher academically and had fewer discipline problems in school. We are proud this scientifically- proven test has been selected for Texas; however, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We are asking schools to commit to continuing or, in some cases, implementing PE programs to keep students active and healthy."

The TEA will oversee the implementation of FITNESSGRAM statewide. Parents can request their child's physical fitness assessment results. The results will also be shared with the Texas Legislature each year.

In addition to testing, SB 530, introduced by Senator Jane Nelson of District 12, defines the level of daily activity as "moderate to vigorous" that Kindergarten through fifth graders are required to exert for 30 minutes a day or 135 minutes a week during PE or structured recess, which students began this school year. Starting the next school year of fall 2008, sixth through eighth graders will be added and must participate in moderate to vigorous activity four out of six school semesters either 30 minutes daily, 125 minutes during a school week or 225 minutes over two school weeks.

The Cooper Institute, the 501(c)3 nonprofit research and education division located at Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, developed the FITNESSGRAM in 1982. In 1998, The Cooper Institute partnered with Human Kinetics, which now publishes and distributes the product to schools nationwide. Neither The Cooper Institute, nor Dr. Cooper, will receive any profit from FITNESSGRAM implemented in Texas schools. In fact, Dr. Cooper has made it his personal mission to raise the more than $2 million to fund the program completely.

An estimated 67,000 schools are using the FITNESSGRAM across the country. There are 11 Texas school districts that use the FITNESSGRAM district wide. Other district-wide programs in other parts of the country include Miami-Dade County and New York City Public Schools. Texas joins Alabama, Delaware, California, South Carolina, and West Virginia as states that mandate daily activity among a variety of grades and elect to use the FITNESSGRAM to measure students. Illinois is the only state in the nation that requires PE for K-12.

"The Texas Education Agency and the state of Texas have shown great leadership in addressing children's health and fitness," said Human Kinetics' CEO Brian Holding. "We look forward to working with the TEA to implement FITNESSGRAM in all schools to help students improve and maintain their health-related fitness and physical activity levels."

Childhood obesity is a major problem in Texas and across the United States. In 2005, it was estimated that more than 66 percent of American adults were overweight, with almost 35 percent being obese, and more than 30 percent of children were overweight. It has been predicted that for every child born after the year 2000, one out of three Caucasians, one out of two Hispanics, and two out of five African Americans will become diabetic. According to a recent Trust for America's Health report, Texas ranks 12th among all states for obese and overweight populations. In Texas, a 2007 Comptroller report showed that nearly two-thirds of the state's adults are overweight or obese. It also showed that 42 percent of the state's 4th graders, 39 percent of 8th graders and 36 percent of 11th graders were overweight or at risk of being overweight.

SOURCE Cooper Aerobics Center
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