Officials addressing fitness disparity 

North County school officials and parents are working to correct a disparity between the fitness levels of their students versus their South County peers.

A review of physical fitness results of the last three years shows North County ninth-graders scoring below their South County brethren, except in the two toughest categories of the state-mandated test.

Jefferson Union High School District and South San Francisco Unified officials noted varying potential reasons for the disparity, including funding levels and culturally diverse student bodies.

Adopted by the state in 1996, the Fitness Gram test focuses on six different categories to test fitness: aerobic capacity, body composition (body fat), abdominal strength, trunk extension strength, upper body strength and overall flexibility.

In 2006, 25.7 percent of South San Francisco Unified ninth-graders met the fitness standards in all six categories while 34 percent of Jefferson Union freshmen met all six. Countywide, 35.8 percent of freshmen met standards in all the categories, and statewide 27.4 percent achieved that status.

Except in 2004, when Sequoia Union High School District scored poorly, Jefferson Union and South San Francisco tested below all other high school districts inthe county for students meeting six of six standards and five of six standards.

"It’s saying a lot about the fact that in general kids aren’t very fit," Jefferson Union Deputy Superintendent Gary Johnson said.

Johnson emphasized that the scores were just a snapshot of that particular class, and much like one class might be more gifted than another in math or writing, some are more fit than others.

"We don’t have the same resources to work from; we’re working from a different budget per student," Johnson said.

South San Francisco Unified has ranked below the state and county levels in the hardest standards in 2004 and 2005 but is the only district to show continual positive improvement in the last three years.

Just last year, they overtook the state’s percentage of students meeting five of six standards.

Christine Baumgardner, the district’s supervisor of Research and Testing, said that the district particularly has trouble with the body composition portion of the standard, noting that they’ve partnered with Stanford on projects to improve the health of their students.

The more diverse student body also presents a challenge as the district has more students from cultures that are typically bigger than others, she said.

"It’s definitely a focus for our physical education people in middle and high school, and they’re working very hard," Baumgardner said.

Parents are also becoming more aware of how to help their kids stay fit, said Nadine Samorano, the PTSA president for Jefferson High School. "The information is getting out to our parents," Samorano said

Fitness by number

Percentage of students meeting six out of six health fitness standards

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