Friday, August 5, 2011

Fitnessgram: A great tech tool for assessing student health & fitness in schools

For Leadership Day 2011, educational leaders have been invited to  blog about whatever we like related to effective school technology leadership: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, resources, ideas, etc.  What a cool idea!  It's a great invite to push and promote these resources with one another.  Info on this is available at @mccleod's "Calling all bloggers!" post at

I'd like to tell you about Fitnessgram and encourage your school to consider adoption of this tech tool.  One of the things I am most passionate about as an educator is the connection between health and academic achievement.  Ever since I read my Maslow in my early Ed Psych courses as a pre-service teacher, the correlation resonated.  I realized there is a profound simplicity and truth in prioritizing health, safety, and belonging needs and that doing so in education is essential if we want students to be able to perform complex cognitive tasks.  Simply put, healthy students learn better. 

One tech tool for helping bring student health and fitness data into your conversation around the overall quality of your instructional program is Fitnessgram, which provides very basic tests of strength, flexibility, endurance and an assessment of body composition or BMI.  The scores are inputted and through the software, reports can be formatted which provide aggregate analysis by grade, gender, and test.

The idea of fitness testing in schools is hardly new and for decades many schools have been doing the Presidential Fitness testing.  But the Fitnessgram is more of a criterion-referenced fitness test that places students by age and gender into norming groups that identify whether the individual assessed is in the HFZ or "Healthy Fit Zone." We have had Fitnessgram for a couple years now at Norris and test at all levels - elementary, middle, and high school.  The students enjoy the tests because (a) they are working for a target range, not a pass/fail like the Presidential Test (b) they get meaningful results and are provided individually tailored reports in a timely manner after completing the tests (c) they can track their own progress over time.

Historically, Physical Education curriculum has been characterized by a competitive team sports dynamic that does not allow individual students to flourish in aspiring toward and attaining meaningful individual fitness goals.  The Fitnessgram assessment helps schools make a shift to providing students with important individual health data that instills a commitment and interest in fitness for a lifetime, to attain personally meaningful health goals.

In addition to the individual reports, the Fitnessgram aggregate reports can show whether there are significant health disparities in the areas assessed across grade levels within your system.  This can help a district target its interventions and tailor instruction to best meet the needs of students.

We have a small network version for our unified campus district, and we will probably be adopting the web-based version in the future.  It was not a big investment and has helped bring our whole PE team into a data driven culture in our district.  Fitnessgram is like any tech tool - it is not perfect.  Importing rosters from our student information system hasn't been without glitches and there's no getting away from some data entry when it comes to recording scores on the rosters, but those have been pretty small sacrifices for the results.  Happy #leadershipday11 !

1 comment:

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