Texas Youth Fitness Study

A Commentary

Large-scale fitness testing allows tracking of youth fitness and provides research data that may lead to improved physical education; but it is not without its detractors.

The Texas Youth Evaluation Project accomplished a huge task in a short amount of time. The state-mandated testing program, with $2 million in private funding, engaged 20,000 teachers in 9,000 schools (85% of districts) to test 2.5 million youth in grades 3 through 12.

Such a large-scale testing program has many benefits but is not without its critics. On the positive side, a large survey can help experts understand youth fitness trends over time. It supports other research about the relationship of fitness to better attendance and lower composite indicators of delinquency. Such testing provides students, teachers and parents with useful information and highlights the need to reduce childhood obesity.

On the negative side, the dangers of institutional testing include taking time away from other important physical educational objectives, placing a burden on teachers and risking that students have negative experiences.

For such a project to continue, the Texas Youth Evaluation Project will need to find funds to replace its current private funding. Officials should consider using other forms of testing, such as personal self-testing and personal best testing. The fitness testing data must not be used to assess physical education program quality.

Much has been learned that can be applied to other large-scale fitness testing projects in Texas and elsewhere.