As students, we spend a great deal of our time being tested on what we have learned in our academic classes. Teachers assess our knowledge of a subject matter through tests and quizzes. It follows then that we should also be tested on our physical fitness in our physical education classes. Unlike standard assessments used in the academic setting, however, the use of fitness testing in schools has been a long-debated topic with pros and cons on both sides.
One argument against fitness testing in schools is that a child’s fitness depends on many different components, such as physical growth, biological maturation and behavioral development. Since none of these factors can be altered by physical education, testing is meaningless. Next, fitness testing in schools takes away from time for students to engage in physical activities, and to learn the importance of being healthy and physically fit. Finally, fitness testing can be uncomfortable and even embarrassing for some students, and such tests are unlikely to motivate students to become more physically fit in the same way a fun game might.
Although fitness testing in schools may not be an ideal way to assess a student’s overall well-being, it can serve a number of positive purposes. For example, fitness testing can help to promote physical activity while developing skills in goal setting. If a student performs poorly in a particular area of a fitness test, he can set a goal and work toward improving that area for the next assessment. This type of goal setting may help to motivate some students to improve their overall health and physical activity. Furthermore, fitness testing may promote learning if the testing is used in conjunction with a curriculum that emphasizes the importance of developing students’ knowledge and understanding of physical fitness and physical activity.
There is support on both sides of the debate regarding the practice of fitness testing. While fitness testing may not be the best way to ensure that students acquire the knowledge and skills they will need to live healthy lives, important information can be obtained from fitness testing. A curriculum that develops a student’s knowledge of health and physical fitness, provides ample time for physical activity and uses fitness testing only as one tool to promote learning would likely satisfy those on both sides of the debate.
Graphic: Evie Cullen