Last Tuesday inside the gymnasium at East Brooklyn Congregations School for Public Safety and Law, six students stood in a row on the edge of the school’s basketball court and when prompted by a voice from a tape recorder ran to the middle of court. When the voice played again they stopped and ran back.
Other students sat along the wall of the gym and watched as students ran until they were too tired. The voice coming from the recorder kept prompting students to run and counted laps. After lap 10 most of the female students had dropped off. By lap 20, all but two male students kept running. At around lap 40, the final male student, slowed his run and then stopped and caught his breath.
According to the pacer test rubric, as it’s called, a physically fit 16-year-old male student should running at least 61 laps. In a class of about 25 students, not one student passed the test. EBC physical education teacher William DeFreitas encouraged students to run despite their visible displays of lethargy.
This exercise was part of the citywide FitnessGram, a test that measures aerobic capacity, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility to name a few other health indicators.
The test was adopted by the city in 2005 as a way to test physical fitness and was developed by the Cooper Institute of Aerobic Research, a Texas based fitness research institute. Some of the other aspects of the test include abdominal curl ups, push-ups and the test also measures a student’s body mass index. The FitnessGram takes into account a student’s sex, age and weight when determining his or her ranger of physical health.
According the pacer test, the number of laps a 16-year old girl needed to run to be considered on the low end of the healthy spectrum was 32. In the two groups of six runners that participated in the test, not one female student ran 20 laps.
It was unclear whether it was lack of interest or lack of ability that kept students from reaching acceptable fitness levels. One female student showed up to class wearing dress boots and had to run in those. After all the students completed the test some students wanted to run again to improve their score. Still, no student achieved a passing score.
— Jamie Oppenheim