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Improving Physical Education and Student Fitness Through the Presidential Youth Fitness Program

School Contact: Julie Graber

Getting Started

Prior to her introduction to the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, Julie Graber used programs like the old youth fitness test as part of her physical education (PE) programming. In 2013, her school district applied for and received the Presidential Youth Fitness Program grant. After completing the program’s professional development training, she refocused her instruction to emphasize individual student fitness goals and Healthy Fitness Zone® standards. These areas of emphasis were a marked change from the 85th percentile achievement standard of the old youth fitness test, which her students had previously struggled to achieve. 

Up and Running

The most significant change Julie noted in her classes after she began implementing the program was that students suddenly seemed more willing to give their best effort for each activity or task. Before she started the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, students were reluctant to try their best during fitness testing because they felt it was impossible to achieve the standardized percentile, score, or time. She taught the students that with FitnessGram, the program’s assessment, their results were based on goals specific to them and not standardized numbers.

With the new approach, students have a reference point from their pretest, which allows them to set a personal goal, like beating their previous PACER (progressive aerobic cardiovascular endurance run) scores. Julie recalls that five years ago, the students would react negatively to the announcement about fitness testing and she counted more absences on testing days. Now when she mentions testing day, the students are energized and excited because they work the entire quarter toward a goal and are ready for the testing. Students do not dread testing anymore because it allows them to find out how much they have progressed without feeling scrutiny or competition from their peers. 

What Comes Next

The personal goals present a challenge to the students, but they are attainable. Julie plans to continue implementing what she has learned from the program because of the positive impact she has seen on students’ attitudes toward PE and fitness.  ​