July 10, 2017 – Motivated by readings on their heart rate monitors, students at Portage Central Middle School logged more than 6,000 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity in the just-completed school year while improving their Presidential Youth Fitness Program scores in several key areas.
Portage Central PE students wore the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors this year after upgrading from the Spirit chest-strap monitor.
“Even if the students could hear the tones [on the chest straps] as they changed heart rate zones, the difference in being able to see that change on their wrist is immeasurable,” Dunlop said.
Portage Central’s students recorded a combined 363,291 minutes of MVPA, nearly 60 percent of their 620,000 total workout minutes in class.
“We start moving as soon as we are out of the locker room, and they want to maximize the time in the zone,” Dunlop said. “I see a lot of jogging in place while they are waiting for everyone else to pick up their monitors.”
Maximized efforts brings results
Across the five PYFP measures (mile run, PACER, 90-degree push-up, sit-and-reach and curl-up) Dunlop assessed throughout the year, nearly half of the school’s 230 eighth graders achieved the healthy fitness zone standard in all of them. Another 19 students exceeded the standard in all five assessments.
Those results didn’t happen overnight. Students wore the heart rate monitors in class and received feedback after each session in the form of easy-to-read heart rate reports sent via email. Parents also received the emailed reports. Dunlop regularly checked to make sure students were looking at – and understanding – the reports they received.
“The kids get it,” Dunlop said. “We give them assignments where they go to a Google form and answer questions that show they understand what they are reading in the reports they receive. That gives them a sense of what is really going on.”
What the students saw sparked conversation and competition in class, both of which reinforced to Dunlop that the data drove the students to keep improving.
“You can hear them making comments to each other comparing how they did,” Dunlop said. “They motivate themselves to get as much time in the zone as they can.”
No longer just a teacher ‘with an opinion’
The data also helped teachers improve their performance. The data Dunlop pulls out of the IHT Spirit System® allows him to evaluate everything about the way he runs his school’s PE program. Whether he’s assessing nationally standardized tests such as PYFP or his own measures, he tracks everything inside the Spirit Assessment Measures software.
“The IHT Spirit Software has all [PYFP/FitnessGram®] components integrated into it, including current standards related to age and gender,” Dunlop said. “Assessments such as curl ups, push ups, PACER and mile run can be done in class and the instructor can input scores into a laptop or any wireless device. This data is saved automatically.”
Gone are the days where teachers evaluate a program based on the effort they think students are giving.
“You can show objectively who is working hard,” Dunlop said. “It is no longer a subjective thing. Now it’s done fairly. What’s the old quote? ‘Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.’ Well, I have data and it helps me learn about how I do things. To have it to share with the kids and parents and to use it as a teacher, this is something that is very beneficial.”
The data provides Dunlop with direct evidence of what he needs to focus on when building his curriculum, either month-to-month or year-to-year.
“We use data to drive our curriculum,” he said. “We focus on integrating the activities to focus on where we need to improve.”
Two years ago, Dunlop said, the data showed students lagging in their cardiovascular fitness, so he adjusted the curriculum to focus on stamina and the ability to stay in the healthy heart rate zones longer. Following this year’s final PYFP assessments, more than 75 percent of Portage Central’s students tested in the Healthy Fitness Zone for the mile run and more than 81 percent of the students met the PYFP standard in the PACER test.
“The goal is to have 100 percent of the students meet the time standard [on the mile],” he said. “I think we’re almost there.”
Administrators see that data and see how it relates to the whole student, and they can remain confident that students are developing. Dunlop wants his program to focus on more than just physical education and he makes full use of the Spirit System’s Assessment Measures tools to accomplish that goal.
“You have to make sure it’s a balanced, well-rounded program where you work on all of the components that need to be studied: the psychomotor skills, social and emotional skills,” he said. “We have the ability to monitor behaviors you wouldn’t be able to do elsewhere.”
As more studies demonstrate the relationship between fitness and the whole student, IHT will continue to provide tools to improve and quantify the value of physical education in delivering a well-rounded education.