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Burbank Unified students aren’t as fit as in years past

Burbank Unified students aren’t as fit as in years past
Anika Montes, of Burbank, tosses up the ball to practice a kill during a drill at Real's Youth Volleyball Camps at Burroughs High School on June 4, 2018. Though healthier than their state counterparts, Burbank Unified students generally aren’t as fit as they were a few years back (Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

Though healthier than their counterparts throughout the state, Burbank Unified students generally aren’t as fit as they were a few years ago, according to recent findings.

John Paramo, the district’s director of secondary education, presented the latest results from the 2017-18 physical fitness test mandated by the state during a school board meeting Thursday.

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The exam, known as the Fitnessgram, is required for students in fifth, seventh and ninth grades and tests for six fitness standards: aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk-extension strength, upper-body strength and flexibility.

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“In order to pass the test and be in the ‘healthy fitness zone,’ a student would have to pass five out of six strands,” Paramo said.

Freshmen in the district performed best, with 66.7% of them hitting five of the six standards, while seventh-graders came in at 56.5% and fifth-graders topped out at 48%.

Those percentages beat all of the California averages of 57.9%, 53.3% and 46.9% for ninth, seventh and fifth grades, respectively.

While Burbank Unified students did better than their state peers, they were only getting healthier compared to past years in fifth grade, while falling behind their own past standards in seventh and ninth grades.

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The fifth-grade percentage of 48% marked an increase from 47.3% during the 2016-17 school year and 44.1% in 2015-16.

Those gains were in contrast to reversals for seventh-graders, whose 56.5% rate marked a sizable decline from 63.9% the previous year.

While district ninth-graders posted the best among all three age groups with 66.7%, that percentage trailed the 2016-17 result of 68.5% and 67.5% in 2015-16.

Students in lower grades struggled most with the upper-body strength, while body composition was the biggest concern for ninth-graders.

The upper-body strength test consists of push-ups, modified pull-ups and flexed-arm hangs.

For instance, a 12-year-old boy is required to complete at least 10 90-degree push-ups and seven modified pull-ups as part of the upper-body strength test. A 12-year-old girl would need to finish seven push-ups and four pull-ups.

Only 49.6% of Burbank Unified fifth-graders passed the upper-body strength test, which actually trailed the state average of 62%. Seventh-graders posted a completion rate of 64.4%, which also was slightly behind the state standard of 64.7%.

District ninth-graders outperformed the state averages in all metrics, but struggled most in body composition — which includes skin-fold measurements and a body-mass index — with a 65% rate.

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“If you can’t pass the [body-mass index], then that’s the one that makes you have to pass every other one,” Paramo said.

Burbank Unified fifth-graders performed best in abdominal strength (77.6%), while seventh- and ninth-graders measured best in trunk-extension strength, with percentages of 84.2% and 92.7%, respectively.

“When it comes to high school students, they have ninth-grade and 10th-grade opportunities to pass the Fitnessgram test,” Paramo said. “If they can pass it in those two years, then they can waive the last two years of P.E.”

Paramo added, “However, if they’re not able to pass Fitnessgram in ninth grade and 10th grade, then they need to be enrolled in P.E. for the next grade until they pass.”

Students who participate in sports are still required to take the test, though board president Roberta Reynolds said she hoped the incentive to test out of physical education the last two years would help raise rates.

“There’s great incentive to pass, which is at least a good thing for physical fitness and also for health because we do have a crisis in that as well,” Reynolds said.

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