PE Testing is unnecessary and unbeneficial

March 12, 2020 — by Alan Zu and Allen Luo

A recent proposal by Governor Gavin Newsom would halt any form of physical performance exams in California for three years. Concerned about the bullying and body shaming that sometimes arise from these tests, Newsom has proposed that the current PE testing system be removed, including everything from the timed mile runs to push-up tests. 

It’s a policy that is overdue.

The concept of testing a student’s physical fitness through these methods is rife with problems, such as separate standards for genders, categorizing students by weight and comparing students with various athletic abilities.

Conducting PE tests changes the purpose of having PE classes. In its best, the class teaches students ways to exercise for a lifetime and stay healthy.  

But required fitness exams aren’t needed for that to happen. Too often fitness testing leads to students to be mocked in front of their peers — or at least the fear that they will be. Because of this, students have to worry about yet another thing on their already heavy workload. PE should just stay at teaching students how to exercise without any state-mandated judgment on their level of fitness.

Also, because athletics outside of school, such as club sports, do not contribute to PE credits, students are forced to either join a school team or attend PE class. This creates the issues of athletes who are not part of school sports teams being clearly more fit than others in PE classes. 

Students who are not as interested in sports should not be compared to these athletes. The existing tests allow for such comparisons; students who mainly exercise in PE classes will not have as much stamina as a student who runs daily in a sport like soccer. Such comparisons make non-athletic students feel embarrassed about their own performance. 

For example, in some schools, students were previously lined up in order of weight in order for students to be put into weight classes. Lining up students by weight can be psychologically scarring for those with body issues.

Boys and girls are also unintentionally compared during PE tests. Even though boys and girls have different standards in tests, they still take the test together. For example, if a boy takes more time to complete the mile run than a girl, the boy may be subject to ridicule by his peers because of the double standard.

The double standard is even reflected in the passing scores for the PE tests; girls have more time to complete the mile to earn a passing score than boys. This double standard already compares boys with girls, which creates more bullying when a boy is unable to pass a girl’s standard.

The bill removing testing is beneficial in that it reverts PE classes to more of its original purpose: to provide a means for students to learn how to exercise. Even with PE tests removed, the amount of exercise will remain relatively the same in classes. 

Classes can still require the same amount of exercise using different methods; one such is requiring a total running distance for students to complete in a month. Students who are not as fit can space the exercise time out more, and students cannot procrastinate and complete the entire requirement overnight like work from other classes. In short, psychologically questionable testing has no place in PE classes.