Last week, I substituted in a fourth grade classroom on the day a writing prompt was given for statewide standardized testing. I was reminded of the stress and pressure around such testing. Anyone who works in public education knows, test scores are a big deal. Funding is tied to test scores. School performance is tied to test scores. Public perception is tied to test scores.
In schools where test scores are low, the entire focus of the curriculum, staff, and school culture revolves around raising test scores. From intervention-based classes to silly contests, standardized testing becomes an obsession. New research suggests there is a simple way to improve these scores: encourage physical activity!
Natural News reports:
A large study out of Spain suggests that an active commute to school can boost test scores. Physical activity has always been a staple of fitness and therefore healthy living, but many people simply assume children only need to exercise to maintain a healthy weight. All other studies surrounding exercise and cognitive function are usually centered on elderly or grown adults to determine what memory can be saved and what level of happiness can be obtained. Now it appears that exercise may do just as much for academics in young children as it does for the body in general.
Of the 1700 participants in the study approximately 65% said they either walked or rode a bike to school. Those with an active commute scored an average of four points higher than those that received rides to school. This may not seem significant on one test but can be the difference in a grade point, and over time the accumulative knowledge gained from the improved cognitive function could be statistically significant.
Families often joke about grandparents that walked miles to school (uphill both ways and in five feet of snow in the summer :)), but this school commute made them smarter. Researchers found a bike ride or walk to school that was longer than 15 minutes produced higher test scores. It is recommended that children receive one hour of moderate exercise a day for optimum physical and cognitive health.
Safety is often a concern of parents when thinking of their children walking or riding to and from school. Many communities have organized walking school busses to address this issue. Safety in numbers!
Encouraging physical activity should be a goal of education. Perhaps during standardized testing week, schools could give out awards for children that walk or ride to school instead of other silly contests. Even teachers could participate!