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Freshmen ‘are fitter’

Fifth-graders also improve on state test. Seventh-graders take a step back.

December 02, 2009|By Max Zimbert

GLENDALE — Ninth-graders in Glendale and Burbank schools improved their scores on state physical fitness exams, according to figures released Monday.

About 82% of Glendale freshmen reached five of six state standards for fitness last school year, an increase from 80.7% in 2007-08, according to the California Department of Education.

The exams test students’ aerobic capability, body mass, flexibility, abdominal strength, upper-body muscles and trunk extensions, or stomach-down sit-ups.

Exams are given to all fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders in all California public schools.

Glendale fifth-graders improved their scores to 81.9 out of 100 in 2008-09, up more than two points from 2007-08. But seventh-graders retreated from 60.8% of students reaching five out of six fitness goals in 2007-08 to 59.3% for 2008-09, the figures show.

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The state report did not specify which students failed to meet which goals.

“The district really has put an emphasis on fitness, even down to the elementary level,” said Glendale Unified School District Supt. Michael Escalante. “During difficult times when so much energy is going toward academic achievement, it amazes me we do as well as we do in the fitness area.”

Burbank ninth-graders improved about 6 percentage points to 77% of ninth-graders passing five of the six fitness goals, while seventh-graders improved by eight points and fifth-graders by seven.

“I think the difference is, in the old days, there might have been a regular, multi-subject teacher leading P.E., but now we have specialists teach . . . and have a systematic way of increasing students’ skills,” Burbank Unified School District Supt. Kevin Jolly said.

Both districts bettered the county and state averages. About 65% of California ninth-graders met five of six fitness goals, while roughly 61% of Los Angeles County freshmen met benchmarks.

Educators cited Glendale and Burbank’s multiple athletic opportunities as one reason behind improving the fitness results.

“Plus all the teachers here are coaches, so the motivation level is very high,” said Dave Mendoza, the athletic director and physical education teacher at Crescenta Valley High School, where 90.1% of test-takers met five of six goals.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell released the 2007-08 test results at Crescenta Valley High last year, and praised the school for scoring within the top 5% in the state.

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