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[Susan notes: It is critical that we speak out against the

measurement of everything kids do--and, as in

this case, encourage students to engage in

activities that will make them fit for life.]

Published in Santa Monica Daily Press
12/05/2008

To the editor

The Daily Press' cheerful story, "Area students

making the fitness

grade," (December 3) tells us that Santa Monica

students performed

above the state average on a measure called the

Fitnessgram, and that

this year's test results are a bit better than

last year's.



The Fitnessgram is a test that includes pushups,

sit-ups, and a mile

run, and measures flexibility and body fat. The

developer of the

Fitnessgram is Kenneth Cooper, who served as

personal physician to

President Bush, and is known as âBushâs exercise

guru.â Cooper

has stated that neither he nor the âCooper

Instituteâ profit

financially from the Fitnessgram.



To ensure that districts and schools continue to

improve and do

better than other districts and schools, PE will

probably focus

increasingly on sit-ups, pushups, and running.

This is a threat to the

idea that a major goal of PE is to introduce

students to a variety of

sports to encourage them to become fit for life

in enjoyable ways.



The Fitnessgram is expensive. California tests

children in grades

5,7, and 9 using the Fitnessgram, which costs

more than $200 per

school. There are about 10,000 schools in

California, which means an

annual cost of two million dollars. This expense

is hard to justify

when California's school lunch program for

children of poverty has a

deficit of $31 million. It makes more sense to

invest in building

health than in measuring it.



There is, of course, plenty of evidence relating

exercise to physical

and mental health, but none that I know of

related specifically to

testing children using this tool. (For a list of

studies on the

Fitnessgram per se, see

http://www.public.iastate.edu/~gwelk/Publications

%20Related%20to%20Fitnessgram.htm).



There must be a better and less expensive way of

making sure our

children are fit.



Stephen Krashen


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