Generally, I’m not the biggest fan of clickbait titles, and I mention this because while I know that using a swear word in a title is likely to get attention, I don’t do that because of the strength I feel about it.
I was in the best physical shape I’ve ever had when I was 19, and by then I could run a mile at a pace just under nine minutes. According to the “Test Administrator’s Handbook” for the Connecticut Fitness Assessment, this would place me solidly in the “Needs Improvement Zone” for my age group. For a 19-year-old mature enough to set realistic fitness goals, it might not be the end of the world. However, to a nine-year-old child being asked to participate in the one-mile walk/run assessment for the first time, being told to improve without really explaining what that means can be incredibly harmful.
As the manual says, “Providing feedback is an important part [of] any assessment[s] and must be given to each student who takes the assessment, as well as to their parents. It’s true, however, like much of how this system is set up, it’s unclear how to execute the ideas in the manual. The 1-mile walk/run and PACER test, both aerobic capacity testing options, take place in an environment where a large group of students are tested at the same time. There just isn’t enough time to give individual feedback in person, and especially at a young age, anything written after that will really only go down to the parents. What children take away from the test is not the few words of encouragement they may have received from a physical education teacher, it is the visible result of how they finished compared to the rest. of their class.
In a group testing setting, it is simply irresponsible to ignore the social element that exists. For the 2021-2022 school year, EdSight statistics on ct.gov show that only 72.7% of fourth graders, 67.4% of sixth graders, 58.7% of eighth graders and 53.8% of high school students met the “health standard” for the mile run. That’s a lot of kids failing, and not only failing, but failing in front of their peers. An eight-year-old struggling on the track as his classmates find success won’t want to hear a few words about how to improve his time, he’ll be ashamed that he can’t do as well as everyone else .
There are many reasons why some students will not achieve the same benchmarks as other students, but we as a society should not use this means to try to improve them all. Instead of pushing students to achieve a certain score, which completely ignores the fact that students grow at different rates and some have disabilities, explaining general positive habits to promote physical health would go much further. . Eight-year-olds are very impressionable – explaining that regular exercise can lead to a healthier lifestyle can have a big impact on them, while embarrassing them because their mile time wasn’t fast enough to the state can lead to years of insecurity and bad habits are formed trying to address that insecurity.
One thing I should address is a statement I made in the previous paragraph – that the tests do not take into account students with disabilities. I have to admit that the manual actually talks about it, but again, when it’s necessary to flesh out any of the protocols, those in-depth explanations just don’t exist.
The manual has a section called “Exemptions/Alternate Assignments”. In this section, the suggestion for creating alternative test strategies is as follows:
“If a test item is inappropriate for the student with a disability, schools should, to the extent of their ability, make accommodations to enable the student to be assessed using appropriate standards and assessments.”
Later in the paragraph, the manual states this:
“To ensure that exemptions and alternate assessments are administered equally and faithfully, schools must maintain documentation to support a student’s exemption or use of an alternate assessment from the textbook. Connecticut Fitness Assessment Test Administrator. The CSDE reserves the right to request and/or examine these documents.
While it is good that there is both a plan to give alternative assessments to those who may need them, and also a plan to hold schools accountable for making those assessments fair and equal, the only question I have to ask is: where are the real guidelines? This is the manual on how to administer the test, which includes detailed instructions on how to assess those who can be tested via the original assessment. If true fairness is the goal, it is necessary to standardize instructions instead of just trusting each district and then checking later.
I personally am an example of this system not working. As a college student with asthma and retroverted femoris (a hip problem), my doctor gave me a note explaining that I had to miss the 1K race. Instead of participating, I stood at the side of the track and watched my classmates take the test that was scheduled. Might as well “guarantee” anything.
This article is really just a sounding board for all the feelings and issues I’ve had related to fitness testing, so I think the most appropriate way to end it is to share the rationale that the state gives to practice first:
“The one-mile run has been a standard feature of the CPFA since its inception. Many students enjoy running long distances and are highly motivated by activity, both for sport and recreation. Many physical education and athletics programs across the state include curricular and extracurricular distance running activities. There is significant research that has been conducted over a long period of time that supports the value of running for children, as well as the validity and reliability of assessing aerobic fitness with the One Mile Run Test. .
Reading this left me speechless. If the best reasons the state can give are that running has been around for a long time, that kids love to play sports, and a completely unquoted claim that a lot of research has been done to support the tests, then the State must return to the drawing board.
We absolutely should encourage students to engage in physical activity, but there’s a big difference between that and requiring students to perform specific athletic demonstrations for the purpose of compiling statistics. The benefits to research simply do not outweigh the consequences the tests may have on students.