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Weighing the PACER Test

By Kara Kupferberg

The new FitnessGram, or PACER test, intends to encourage increased fitness in students; South receives a $1.24 million grant for participating. However, the test raises many issues.

The FitnessGram hurts students’ self-esteem and gives students a negative view of gym class and fitness in general. Although the idea of students taking a fitness test five times a year with the goal of improving stamina and performance seems noble, in reality it places a tremendous amount of pressure on students. Not only do they have to compete with their own prior performance, but they also have to compare themselves to their peers since all students take the FitnessGram with their gym class. While some competition can be healthy and motivational, it can also be discouraging and embarrassing.

Many students, even athletes, do not take the task seriously because it is easier to treat it as a joke than to actually exert themselves. In particular, students who do not excel athletically do not even try because they do not want their peers to see them fail.

Even for students who enjoy gym class, the FitnessGram wastes their time. The entire test takes three periods—a full week of gym. Multiply this by five (the test is supposed to be given five times a year), and that is over a month of gym class spent taking the FitnessGram.  Furthermore, students are only actively taking the test for a fraction of the period; they spend the rest of the period sitting around and waiting for others to finish.The most controversial portion of the test is that gym teachers must record students’ heights and weights. Many students feel uncomfortable being weighed by their teacher, and they deserve the right to keep that information private.  For students who have prior issues with body image or eating disorders, this can be a traumatic experience.

While this program tries to promote fitness, teachers and students who have actually experienced it realize that it comes with many obstacles. Although the incentive of the grant money is strong, the district should truly consider feedback from teachers and students to evaluate whether the funds outweigh the adverse effects of the program.

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