SHAPE, the Georgia Student Health and Physical Education program, was passed in the 2009 Georgia legislative session and is now Official Code of Georgia 20-2-777. Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, the law requires each local school district to conduct an annual fitness assessment program for all students in grades 1-12 enrolled in classes taught by certified physical education teachers.
SHAPE’s fitness assessment capability leverages FITNESSGRAM, a comprehensive health-related physical fitness and activity assessment and computerized reporting system developed by The Cooper Institute, and used by tens of thousands of schools nationwide. When schools participate in the SHAPE initiative, their physical education teachers will receive professional training about testing protocol and data entry, and they will be supplied with the equipment, software and technical support needed to conduct the assessment in their school. Participants will also be eligible for the Governor’s award and recognition program, which will provide exciting incentives for teachers and schools. “The FITNESSGRAM report gives us an opportunity to open a dialogue with parents about the importance of health and fitness. Parents want what’s best for their children, and when we can provide them with personalized information and guidance regarding health, fitness and nutrition, everyone benefits,” said Deb Baber, Ed.D., a physical education teacher in Bibb County.
Children and parents will benefit from the program in several ways. Parents will receive reports detailing their child’s fitness level along with recommendations for improvement. These results encourage important conversations about physical health and fitness, and endorse a long-term view of health that promotes lifelong habits of physical activity. Longer term, consistent data collection on health related fitness standards will establish baseline data, provide an opportunity to track and monitor trends, and enable the development of strategies to combat childhood obesity that are measurable and result driven.
Georgia is one of three states committed to boosting the health and wellness of all kids through a focus on the specific fitness measures most closely related to classroom performance and health-care costs. The data-driven approach gives schools local control over programming and maximizes Georgia’s commitment to personal responsibility.
The SHAPE initiative has been funded and piloted during the 2010-2011 school year in five Georgia school systems: Gwinnett, Bibb, Hall, Lowndes, and White.