April 25, 2016

End of the Year: Fitness Testing

     It's that time of year again! As the school year begins to wind down and SOL testing commences (at least for those of us in Virginia), the PE departments at schools across the state begin the monotonous task of end of year (EOY) fitness testing. All too often, I see teachers simply moving through the motions without emphasizing why these tests are important or how they benefit students present level of physical fitness. This is the largest disservice we can give to our students and here's why...

1. Privacy in fitness testing. Too often we see the "old PE" style of fitness testing, where scores are compared to other students. This is no longer accepted practice and should be banished from all PE programs. Fitness testing and the associated scores should be for the eyes and ears of the individual student only. If they choose to share their scores, that is their choice, but it is not our responsibility to blast their scores to the world. Instead, we need to keep scores private and utilize them for goal setting.

2. Fitness testing is for everyone, not just for athletes. We all know our students. We know who the athletic students are and we know which students may fit into various other categories. We also need to know (and understand) that fitness testing needs to be done in a way that allows all students to succeed and feel comfortable. Personal goal setting allows us to personalize fitness testing to individual students, which in turn allows the to focus on their own goals as opposed to what other people in the class are doing. This also changes the dialogue among our students from "what score did you get" to "did you meet your goal." We would be naive to think they don't talk about their scores, so let's foster a positive framework for the discussion so students are proud to talk about meeting their goals instead of comparing scores to others.

3. Fitness testing is a great indicator for baseline and present level physical fitness. Fitness testing is an excellent tool to show students their own growth and improvements! Yes, it is certainly not our only form of feedback, as we should be providing formative and summative assessments throughout each skill we teach, but it is a useful tool for showing students how far they've come. We are also providing realistic feedback on how they can improve further to improve their overall health and wellness.

4. Goal Setting Using EOY Fitness Scores. We should ensure to keep track of students physical fitness score data throughout the year, but especially the baseline testing at the beginning of the year and the EOY scores we record around this time. I find it easiest to do this with traditional pen and paper before importing scores into a Microsoft Excel or Google Slides worksheet. I then take the pre and post test scores and write them on a piece of paper provided to the student. We take a health day to set comprehensive goals for each test area, as well as three sub-goals for each, in order to improve present levels of physical fitness. This emphasizes the important of our testing and how it can benefit students in and out of our classrooms. If you are looking for a resource to help facilitate this goal setting process, you can check out my Fitness Goal Setting Lesson here.

     Ultimately, we are responsible for how our students respond to fitness testing. We control the environment and it is our responsibility to make sure students feel safe, physically, mentally, and socially. We can perform fitness testing without catering to athletes and ensuring students of all abilities feel welcome and supported.

Good luck as we enter the home stretch to the end of the year!

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