Clark falls short in physical fitness test standard


Last year’s freshmen doing the push-up test for upper body strength.

“I don’t understand how last year’s freshmen didn’t do well on the California Physical Fitness Test,” said senior Kahren Torosyan. “When I was a freshman, I passed all of my tests. I mean, I diet and I work out on my own time, too, so that helped a lot. But the underclassmen don’t look too bad. I didn’t think they would do that bad. I was surprised when I saw the news story. It made our school sound worse than it really is.”

While Clark is known to have some of the highest standardized test results among other high schools in the District, Clark’s most recent results showed the lowest passing rates in GUSD on the state fitness exam. The exam, dubbed FITNESSGRAM, is administered in the second semester of the school year and is designed to measure six areas of physical fitness: aerobic capacity, abdominal strength and endurance, upper body strength and endurance, body composition, trunk extensor strength and flexibility, and flexibility.

The website for the California Department of Education states that the Physical Fitness Test, mandatorily administered to students in grades 5, 7, and 9, tracks the fitness levels of every individual to help teachers, parents, and students plan the latter’s physical fitness goals and where they should focus.

According to Clark’s School Accountability Report Card for the 2010-2011 school year, 14 percent of ninth graders met four of the six standards, 23 percent met five out of six, and a whopping 58 percent met all six, meaning 95 percent of all ninth graders at the time were considered to be in the “Healthy Fitness Zone.” In the past five years, Clark’s scores remained at a constant level across the board, with the exception of the abdominal and upper body strength categories.

From data published by the California Department of Education, Clark’s pass rates were as follows:

According to a 2011 Chronicle article, online classes (now Google Classroom) would be implemented, with now-retired teacher Judith Thomsen running a “hybrid” Physical Education class: hands-on learning would be done during school hours and more instructional education on “health and nutrition” would happen outside of the classroom. It’s 2017, and this kind of instruction or anything of the sort, has not happened yet.

Freshman Physical Education teacher Chris Axelgard said that the recent drop in scores is questionable. “I was the one who submitted those scores. I need to have a look at them again. Otherwise, we’re performing just the same,” he said. “In the end, it’s all on me. Last year, I was harder on my students than I’ve ever been. But also, look at it this way: Clark has no sports teams. All our best athletes go to other schools, and basically we’ve got Clark students competing against other Clark students.”

Crescenta Valley’s freshman class of the 2015-2016 school year had a 79.9 percent pass rate in aerobic capacity, 80.3 percent in body composition, 94.2 percent in abdominal strength, 98.2 percent in trunk extension strength, 91.9 percent in upper body strength, and 97.4 percent in flexibility.

“I personally passed all my fitness tests,” said Crescenta Valley sophomore Chloe Chang. “It wasn’t hard. At least, not for me. It’s probably because of the fact that I’m athletic—I play club volleyball, mostly on the weekends, and—not to brag, but—I performed pretty well in my PE class. Most of the other kids did, too. Our classes helped me get stronger, especially in terms of the upper body and abdominal strength tests, since volleyball doesn’t really engage those muscles that much.”

“I’m not as athletic as many of my classmates,” said Glendale High junior Ally Lowe. “But I did better than I thought I would do on the fitness exam. The only one I didn’t pass was the mile run, but I have asthma and I can’t run very well. So all that running in PE didn’t help me that much. It kind of just made me more tired, really. But I still try to exercise by myself. Health is important. Without it, your brain can’t function right.”