The FitnessGram Pacer Test: Running from the Idea

Parents are going as far as making social media accounts to gain awareness for the situation. Photo by: Tara Goff

Tara Goff

“On your mark, get ready, start.” At the sound of the beep, students rush to one side of the gym, only the first lap of the next dreadful 20 minutes. For many, the well-known speech is an incantation ominous of what is about the come: hot face, dry throat, and maybe even tears. 

The main goal of the Pacer Test is to run the 20 meters across the gym as many times as possible, with each lap getting faster. The beep indicating time is up is ingrained in young students’ minds and maybe even their nightmares. If you cannot beat the clock, the teacher sends you back to the bleachers, leaving you humiliated in front of all of your peers. 

The Pacer Test is made to test students’ physical endurance, however ask anyone who has endured it and they will tell you it’s more of a mental game than anything. Even for the most athletic kids, like Will WinThe Pacer Test is intense. We have to compete with our own mind and with each other.  

Other students add that they feel exposed when doing the test. Sally Forth states The whole ‘last-man standing’ concept is horrifying. You’re either embarrassed to be the first one sent to the bleachers, or you’re the only one remaining and everyone watches you run back and forth.” Because neither is a good option, students are left feeling defeated. Forth claims that she and her friends give up before even starting, telling themselves that they cannot or will not do the test.  

Studies have even shown that students are being affected by the Pacer Test outside of the gym. It causes them to have trouble focusing on other schoolwork, and some parents reported that their children have lost sleep over the matter. Win’s mother commented that he puts so much pressure on himself to be the best, but also knows he will be running against the whole grade. “He comes to me and says, ‘Mom, how can I be the best out of everyone?’” Knowing that the test is the next day, students spend more time stressing than they should, and because they lose sleep, their performance the next day will be decreased even more. 

Many parents across the county are beginning to agree. Sources say there is even a chain email going around between parents, all of them claiming the FitnessGram Pacer Test is more of a traumatic event than a teachable moment. They plan to create a GoFundMe to raise awareness on the matter, as they fear the permanent damage it will have on their children. 

With all of the underlying effects of the Pacer Test being brought to light, schools are rethinking administering it at all. The principal of a nearby elementary school, who wishes to remain anonymous, expressed their concern on the matter, stating “I just don’t see how we could have let this get so far. I have parents complaining to me that their children are traumatized and feel like they are not worthy if they fail. How can I just let this pass by?” 

This school is now making the Pacer Test optional, allowing students who wish to test their endurance the chance. To take part in this, the children and their parents must sign a waiver, stating they understand the effects they might experience. Other schools are following along, hoping to take preventative measures so that students do not suffer any more than they already have. They are also administering hand-written apology letters to students who have already graduated, offering compensation for any damage done. These decisions have allowed for peace of mind among parents and young students, while also giving hope to current high schoolers that the mile in PE will also be banned.