In the seventh grade, 35.6 percent met all test standards, and in the ninth grade the figure was 36.7 percent.
In the state as a whole, 25.6 percent of the students in grade five, 29.6 percent in grade seven, and 27.4 percent in grade nine achieved the fitness standards for all six test areas. A comparison of the results over the last three years shows minimal improvement with approximately 0.5 to 1.1 percent more students achieving the minimum fitness levels across all areas of the test
According to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, "The 2006 test scores show a modest 1 percent gain in overall performance compared to last year. These numbers tell us that too many of our students are leading sedentary lives exacerbated by poor eating habits. This is a destructive trend that has resulted in an epidemic of childhood obesity and must be reversed."
"We are deeply concerned that because of this trend today's children may become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents," said Freny Mody, M.D., cardiologist and member of the American Heart Association Los Angeles County Board of Directors. "To fight this growing epidemic, the American Heart Association formed the Alliance for a Healthier Generation with community partners to stop the nationwide increase of childhood obesity and help our kids live longer and healthier lives."
Nearly 58 percent of the students across the three grades met the targeted performance standard in 2006 for aerobic capacity, considered the most important of the six areas tested. Recent research correlates good aerobic capacity with a reduction in many health problems. Conversely, there are serious health risks associated with physical inactivity.
State law requires school districts to administer a physical fitness test, designated by the State Board of Education, to all fifth, seventh, and ninth graders annually. The physical fitness test was administered to 1,389,280 California students this year.
This is the tenth anniversary of the physical fitness test, and the seventh year for reporting physical fitness test results in California public schools.
"The message from these annual tests continues to be abundantly clear and it is imperative we get that message through to our young people. Being physically fit is not only healthier, but studies have shown it can lead to higher academic achievement," O'Connell said. "It is up to us to provide ample opportunities to get them moving and motivated. Schools have the responsibility for providing standards-based physical education instruction, families can participate in regular physical activities, and communities play multiple roles in meeting the physical activity needs of children and adults," he said.
"We should be very concerned," O'Connell added, "for our students' health, their academic success, and the long-term effects this will have."