Frequently Asked Questions

What does the current picture of physical activity and wellness look like for Georgia’s children?

• Our state has the second highest rate of obese children in the country. • Only five in nine (55 percent) middle school students and four in nine (44 percent) high school students meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirements for recommended physical activity. • More than two in five of Georgia’s middle school students (44 percent) and high school students (43 percent) watch TV for three or more hours on a school day. • Obese children are three times more likely to be hospitalized than children who are not obese. Obesity-related healthcare costs reach an estimated $2.1 billion a year.

What are the benefits of being physically fit?

Physical fitness has been shown to be important for health and quality of life. Assessments of physical fitness provide an effective way to evaluate overall physical condition and potential risk for negative health outcomes. Physical fitness is also more easily assessed than physical activity since it doesn't vary on a day-to-day basis. It is important to note that physical fitness is also influenced by factors that are out of a person's control (for example, genetics). While not everyone can be an elite athlete, most people can achieve healthy levels of fitness by performing the recommended amounts of physical activity.

Will BMI collection increase bullying or teasing of peers?

Research does not indicate that BMI testing or fitness assessments put children at a heightened risk for bullying. Regardless, Georgia is taking additional precautions to avoid the possibility. Weight measurements are taken in a private setting, and viewed only by the teacher conducting the assessment. The teacher can set a tone of acceptance for different body types and acknowledge the important genetic contribution to obesity. Using FITNESSGRAM can help young children set realistic standards for their body and avoid the overemphasis on leanness that is often displayed by our culture.

Does collecting height and weight as part of an overall fitness assessment put children at risk for developing eating disorders?

No. The professional instruction provided by Georgia’s fitness assessment teaches that students be weighed-in backwards to avoid any emphasis on weight as a number. Even the student is not informed of their weight to eliminate being pressured by other students to share their results. Body composition is only one component of an overall assessment which focuses on health rather than numbers. The report indicates if a child is above or below the healthy fitness zone, provides recommendations, and explains the limitations of BMI.

Will student privacy be protected?

Absolutely. Student-level data will be de-identified to protect privacy and used to track and monitor trends, and measure programs geared towards obesity intervention.

How will data collected from fitness testing in Georgia be used to improve health and fitness?

Fitness testing alone will not make children healthier. The valuable and innovative data collected through the fitness testing process will be used to provide information about obesity prevalence and fitness levels among children in Georgia, identify correlates and consequences of obesity, and to develop interventions and policies that can support a healthier Georgia.

Why include BMI data?

Baseline data is the foundation of measurable outcomes. Though BMI is the current standard to measure body composition, Georgia has no data source that provides state or local-level data for all school age children. Without data, it is difficult to evaluate the impact of obesity prevention and intervention strategies.

How will a fitness assessment benefit parents and caregivers?

Parents will receive a report generated by the FITNESSGRAM software detailing their child’s health related fitness levels, along with personalized tips and suggestions that can help in planning an individualized fitness plan. An accurate assessment of physical fitness is one component of a comprehensive physical education curriculum that incorporates health-related fitness education. The report provides a way for teachers (and parents) to teach children about the importance of being active and fit throughout their life.

Why should a physical education assessment be required in schools?

Standardized assessments are useful tools for all school subjects to monitor trends and changes, collect data, and improve programs, curriculum and policy. Just like academic testing, standardized assessments for physical education provide these same benefits and opportunities for improvement.

What is Georgia SHAPE?

The Georgia Student Health and Physical Education (SHAPE) Act 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 Georgia public school physical education classes taught by certified physical education teachers.

What mechanism and criteria are being used for testing?

The Georgia Department of Education selected FITNESSGRAM(R), a comprehensive health-related physical fitness and activity assessment and computerized reporting system developed by The Cooper Institute. This system includes a complete battery of health-related fitness items that are scored using age and gender specific standards based on how fit children need to be for good health. The assessment includes body composition, abdominal strength, flexibility, and endurance.

For more information about this assessment, please visit

Can students fail the fitness assessment?

No.Students cannot fail, and are not compared to other students. FITNESSGRAM generates reports for parents, showing whether their child falls within the "healthy fitness zone" in each area. The report also provides recommendations for improvement.

What are the benefits for participating schools?

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.

What is the SHAPE Pilot Program?

A pilot program which includes training, testing and evaluation within five school systems is being conducted during the 2010-2011 school year. The school systems who have agreed to participate are Gwinnett, Bibb, Hall, Lowndes, and White.

Who is the Georgia SHAPE Partnership?

In 2010, the Governor’s Office recognized the opportunity to bring together the Georgia SHAPE Partnership, a group of government, education, healthcare and non-profit leaders to collaborate on this statewide effort. These partners support funding, training, data centralization, reward/recognition, and a sustainable plan for long-term results. Please visit the partnership tab for more information about the groups contributing to this effort.

Sources: Georgia Department of Community Health, Division of Public Health and F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America 2009, by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.