School a model of fitness

Crescenta Valley High School scored in the top 5% on a statewide fitness test, almost doubling the state’s high school average and serving as a “model” to other schools, State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said Tuesday.

O’Connell announced the results of the California Physical Fitness Test at a news conference Tuesday at Crescenta Valley High, where he singled out the school for 70% of its ninth-graders meeting all the test’s requirements, compared with the state’s average of 35.6%.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” O’Connell said, crediting the school’s high score to teachers, coaches and school staff members. “It’s great leadership.”

The test required students to pass five out of six categories, which included aerobic capacity, body composition abdominal strength, trunk-extension strength and upper-body strength. To complete the tests, students ran a timed mile, measured their body fat compositions and completed a set of strength and flexibility tests, physical education teacher Jim Beckenhauer said.

One of the most important contributors to the school’s success was its track and artificial turf field, which community organization Crescenta Valley Community is Committed to Athletic Needs funded, Beckenhauer said.

“There were many times when rain came that we were shut down on [physical education] for a whole week because we’d be running through puddles,” Beckenhauer said.

Detailed figures for the Glendale Unified School District were not yet available, but officials said it likely continued its historical trend of outperforming the state averages.

“It really is a reflection of our priority on health and fitness,” Supt. Michael Escalante said of Crescenta Valley High’s scores.

While the news about an increase in scores pleased O’Connell, he worried about the possible effects that the state budget crisis might have on physical education.

“It’s on the chopping block,” O’Connell said of gym class, explaining that it would likely be one of many programs affected by cuts. “That would be regrettable.”

Gym classes could drastically lose staff members and increase in size, O’Connell said, explaining that the result would be detrimental.

Escalante also feared that cuts to gym classes might affect healthy habits, not only in high school students, but among younger students.

“The success you’re seeing here really starts at the elementary schools,” Escalante said.

Glendale has one of the few elementary school physical education programs in the state, he said.

“Obviously health and fitness is a long-term investment,” Escalante said. “So if kids go through the schools and don’t have the opportunities to develop good health and fitness habits, it’ll hurt them for the rest of their lives.”

 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at

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