Date of Conferral







Kimberley Cox


In an attempt to meet monetary-driven mandates to improve student achievement test scores, administrators are replacing physical education activities with subject matter classes in many American schools. This practice negates the positive contributions of physical activity to academic performance and student fitness. Guided by self-efficacy theory, this study assessed the impact of optimal versus minimal physical fitness state on student academic achievement. The study sample included 5,416 9th grade students from the same school district who completed a minimum of 5 of the 6 components of the FITNESSGRAM tests, and who also completed the math and English language arts (ELA) portions of the California Standards Test. The independent variables were optimal and minimal physical fitness based upon completing 6 or 5 FITNESSGRAM components, respectively. Analyses included independent samples t tests, ANOVA, and Dunnet's C test to detect differences in mean academic scores with gender and ethnicity as covariates. Optimally fit students had significantly higher (p < 0.05) scores in math and ELA tests relative to minimally fit students. Female academic test scores tended to be higher than male scores in both academic tests. School officials, when contemplating curricular programs devoid of a physical education component, might judiciously reassess the positive effects of physical fitness upon academic achievement and the associated biopsychosocial benefits for their students. Physically fit and academically enriched students may provide a foundation for positive social change directed at engendering a healthier, motivated, and productive citizenry.