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California Suggests Pausing Student Fitness Tests

It's worried about bullying and discrimination
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 5, 2020 7:34 AM CST

(Newser) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to pause physical education tests for students for three years due to concerns over bullying and the test discriminating against disabled and non-binary students—a move that comes as a growing percentage of students are scoring not healthy. The proposal was tucked inside Newsom’s education budget bill for next year, and a rep for the Department of Finance says the state has fielded complaints that the current exam's measurement of body mass index is discriminatory to non-binary students. A measurement calculated from weight and height, BMI screenings require students to select "male" or "female," he said. During the proposed suspension, the state would study whether the current test should be modified or redrawn anew.

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Physical education classes would remain a requirement for graduation, however. Annual state reports of the fitness test since the 2014-2015 school year show a steady decline in the share of students scoring healthy, according to a review by the AP. Students' scores have particularly dropped in the category of the fitness test that measures "aerobic capacity"—which can be tested in a one-mile run or by other methods. Other categories also test for flexibility and exercises like push-ups. In the last five years, the percentage of fifth graders scoring healthy in the aerobic category has dropped by 3.3 percentage points. In seventh and ninth grades, the drops are 4.4 points and 3.8 points, respectively.

(Read more physical fitness stories.)

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