AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals “But it’s not enough. We have a lot of work to do.” Nearly 1.4 million fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders took the Fitnessgram, a state test for cardiovascular health, abdominal strength, body fat, flexibility, and upper-body and body-trunk strength. In Los Angeles, 164,000 fifth-, seventh and ninth-graders took the state-mandated test last spring. While a 12-year-old girl must run a 12-minute mile and do 18 crunches and a pull-up, for example, a 15-year-old boy must complete a nine-minute mile, 24 crunches and three pull-ups. About 27 percent of California students passed the challenge, up nearly 4 percent over last year – a result State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell called “unacceptable.” A year after Los Angeles schools banned junk food and sodas, students are in better physical shape but still huff and puff far behind students statewide, according to a study released Monday. The California Physical Fitness Test found that 16.5 percent of Los Angeles Unified School District students cleared all six hurdles of the fitness challenge – a percentage-point gain over last year. More than one-quarter of California students on average passed the challenge, suggesting that L.A. students still spend too much time on the couch. Overall, though, local school officials were happy about the results. “It’s a great day, a great day in the neighborhood,” said Los Angeles Unified School District board President Marlene Canter, who led the district’s soda and junk food ban last year. “You take away sodas, you take away junk food, you reform the cafeteria – and you have an upper trend” in fitness. Healthy students, he said, do better academically. And unhealthy students are at lifelong risk of becoming obese or contracting diabetes. “Children who do not exercise regularly put their health at risk,” O’Connell said during a news teleconference. “Strong bodies and strong minds work together to help students succeed.” O’Connell called on parents to urge kids to get active and for school administrators to urge better diets and enact more physical activity during lunch breaks and more time for physical education classes. Among the Fitnessgram results: While fifth- and seventh-graders in Los Angeles saw a slight increase in fitness, ninth-graders saw significant gains from a 10.5 percent pass rate last year to 12.9 percent in 2005. In aerobic activity, considered the most important element of the test, the pass rate for ninth-graders in Los Angeles rose from 27.3 percent to 32.2 percent. In Los Angeles, Asian ninth-graders were the most fit in their class with a 27.5 percent pass rate, with whites at 22.6 percent, blacks at 12.2 percent and Latinos at 11.1 percent. But with such districts as Conejo Valley Unified showing fitness levels of more than 50 percent, the gap between Los Angeles and other areas is still high. In past years, Los Angeles school officials attributed the poor showing to such factors as eliminating PE in elementary schools, heavy teacher workloads and student preferences for TV and video games over bike riding and sports. Athletes have also not been encouraged to take the fitness test. Chad Fenwick, the new PE consultant for the LAUSD, said the district has put a new focus on physical education. “We’re trying to change the culture of PE in the district,” said Fenwick, a former physical education instructor at Patrick Henry Middle School in Granada Hills who founded the nation’s first schoolyard rock-climbing wall, high-wire adventure course and professional public school gym. “The emphasis is for the students to learn the skills to be fit for the rest of their lives – on their own.” The district has already been putting middle-school and high school teachers through their paces. On Nov. 29, the district will host a Focus on Fitness week with a conference in Universal City. The head of middle and high school instruction will run a mile before giving a pep talk. And teachers, encouraged to stress PE, will exercise to the “William Tell Overture.” At Nobel Middle School on Monday, students were already suited up to train for the school’s annual 10K run to Mission Peak. The school has consistently surpassed others in physical fitness tests. The secret, say PE coaches: creating a desire to be in shape. “See those little trees at the top of that hill? It’s where we run,” said Michael Tovey, co-PE coach who has taught at the school 38 years. “There’s a lot of exercise – and when they make it, you should see their faces.” Across the schoolyard comes the sound of pattering feet, bouncing balls and grunts on the football field. Not even injured students with casts sit down. “Go, go, go, go, go!,” yelled assistant coach Don Kobayashi, launching students from calisthenics to a 440-yard dash. “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” “I like volleyball and softball,” said Sierra Cerda, 11, who buses to Nobel from Gardena. Like other students, she said she wasn’t winded. “I’m getting in shape.” Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730 [email protected] BY THE NUMBERS The following shows the percentage of students in selected school districts who met all standards on the annual fitness test: School District 5th Grade 7th Grade 9th Grade Statewide 24.5% 28.8% 26.7% Los Angeles Unified 17.7% 17.1% 12.9% Burbank Unified 25.1% 37.3% 20.5% Glendale Unified 53.8 34.8% 37.3% Las Virgenes Unified 37.4% 28.0% 37.4% Conejo Unified 44.2% 42.9% 51.2% Simi Valley Unified 38.9% 37.5% 43.1% Moorpark Unified 41.3% 49.5% 37.7% SOURCE: California Department of Education160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!