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Grading the mile run?

Original post made by PA Mom, South of Midtown, on Oct 30, 2012

My average weight boy runs the mile at J.L.S. He is not a fast runner but he does run (not walk) and averages about 9:30. He receives multiple Ds in the mile which is only a portion of his P.E. grade. Should kids be graded on the mile by time or graded by improvement or graded by laps completed? Some controversy exists on how to assess this activity.



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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2012 at 11:40 am

What is "average weight" these days?

9:30 is pretty slow (depending on his age, not listed.) Go run a mile and time yourself for comparison. Innate "speed" isn't the issue at 9:30, it's lack of exercise and training, probably effort as well, imho.

Go out and run together and watch him.


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Posted by exercise
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 30, 2012 at 11:49 am

Does he exercise outside of PE class? Maybe you should go running with him after school to help him work on his fitness.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Not trying to be too harsh --- but you can walk (i.e., not run) a mile in about 10 minutes time. So I'm guessing your son isn't exactly putting too much effort into "running" a mile.


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Posted by PA Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Thank you for your comments. I have watched him run and timed him on weekends. He gets A's in every other category of P.E. When he's running he starts out fast and about 2/3 around the track he slows to a jog, but he's still jogging. I will try walking the mile fast and see how he does. The other problem with the school charts is that they are based on grade not age. He is one of the youngest in his class and 2 years behind in growth, but since he's in 8th grade he has to use the 8th grade rubrics. He is not a super fit kid, but he is not a D runner either. I'd say more like a C.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Giving someone a "D" because they do not cotton to a particular exercise or activity in PE is stupid and counter productive not to mention negative to their self-esteem.

When I was in Paly I hated PE. I was young and got plenty of activity, much more than kids today, I just did not like to be forced or regimented then or even now.

I remember running the mile out by the field near the train tracks, and it taking about 12 minutes, because I did not like to run.

In fact, running was something I never have enjoyed. I never ran a mile until my mid 30's and began to run out by the bay. Then I found I enjoyed it - ON MY OWN - and would regularly run from Palo Alto to Mountain View and back several times a week and twice on weekends. It was something I had to develop myself.

Physical activity is important, I'll grant that, and I got a lot of it back then, but as long as a kid shows up and participates at whatever level they can without disrupting or being negative they ought to at least get a passing grade. The grading thing is just another way we beat the humanity our of our kids. Do we not yet realize that most of what we have been doing in this country along multiple dimensions has come home to roost and is not very productive.

The rating and ranking of kids like they are farm animals is dehumanizing and counter productive ... unless we really just want a .01% society. I'm sad to read this story, because even though I did not like PE when I was in High School at least they did not fail me in and add to my problems - and for no gain or reason.


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Posted by Mom of 3
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 30, 2012 at 1:19 pm

To Crescent Park Dad:

Your comment was: "Not trying to be too harsh --- but you can walk (i.e., not run) a mile in about 10 minutes time"

Really? How do you figure that?

On the website "The Fitness Walking Guide" it says: "In general, the average walking speed is between 3.0 – 3.5 miles per hour which means you can walk one mile in 17 to 20 minutes. At this brisk pace, many people will receive the aerobic benefits of walking, such as strengthened cardiovascular system, lower blood pressure, less anxiety and improved overall physical fitness. "

Other sites generally estimate the MAX walking speed at 3.5-4.5 mph.

To go a mile in 10 minutes, you need to go at a 6 mph pace. Pretty much everyone agrees that at 6 mph, you are at a slow jog or a slow run -- not a walk.


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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I once hated running, too, because I had asthma and it made me wheeze if I went too fast. I t was not until the asthma meds and inhalers really got good that I could enjoy running again.

You mentioned that he starts out fast,,then slows way down...is he having breathing trouble? Or tired legs? Or a sideache? For me, it was that my lungs just could not take in enough air to keep going, even though my legs were not at all tired.

The other thing you mentioned was his size. If he is the size of an eleven year old, it may be that he has the endurance of an eleven year old, and is simply unable to run a whole mile. Endurance takes a long time to develop, which is why in youth soccer the kids do not play on a full-size field until they are 14. And most soccer players are small.

It might be worthwhile to talk to your son's counselor about this, and see what intervention he or she can provide.





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Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm

No way you can walk in 10min, unless you're really huffing hit. I'm older, and run at about just under 10 min at a nice conversation pace.

My wife walks fast, but still runs at 10min/mi

I'd love to see Crescent Park Dad on his 10min/mi "walks"

If his first timed mile was at 9:30/mi and he's improving, great. But, no need to stress over his PE times, unless he's very out of shape for his age. Tell him to go play outside instead of playing video games. Go ride bikes or walk on the weekends. Every little bit helps.


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Posted by also mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm


PA mom,

I would think improvement is what counts, and effort. It's really for your child's benefit for him to feel he can accomplish running faster and better.

If he's not making any improvement, you may want look into other possible reasons. But if there are no health or physical impairments, instead of making it a grade grievance, turn it int a good challenge.

Consistent improvement will be good. And you can maybe ask for the teacher's advice on how to help your son with that goal.

PS: Check the the has good shoes!









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Posted by Jon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by former jls parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm

My kid, no longer at JLS, is chronically ill. The kid was physically unable (and medically forbidden) to run or do heavy aerobic activity, but asked the doctor to let her do SOME PE in middle school and he reluctantly released them to walking and light weights. She regularly received Fs for the mile because she was not fast enough. She was made to feel like a total loser because she walked the mile, (even that knocked her out of school for a couple of days( notwithstanding the medical excuse. She eventually gave up and took the full PE excuse. I thought it was shameful to treat her this way, when her attitude was so positive. When so much of school is devoted to showing improvement, why is PE still about competitive ability?


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Posted by rr
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Average 5k pace isn't that fast: Web Link

Age:13 male:10:22:13 female:11:34:27
Age:14 male:09:28:24 female:11:31:58

For frequent runners 9.3 is slow. But for kids with little to no training or pacing experience, anything beyond that initial sprint is going to take some effort.
The good news is that it doesn't take much to improve this value. Run 4 miles 3-4 times a week and you'll be beating your PE teacher in no time.


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Posted by JLS Alum
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 30, 2012 at 5:40 pm

JLS has a reputation for an awful PE department/PE teachers. When I was a student there in the late 80s I had a serious hip injury and was recovering from surgery for many months. I was excused from PE for half of the semester but was still never cleared to run by my doctors. The PE teacher gave me an F for the entire semester because I walked the mile. My parents fought the grade but I still had to retake the semester in summer school to have it erased from my transcript.

Advocate for your children! Most of our teachers in this district are amazing, but as parents, we know our kids best.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2012 at 12:18 am

I think there should be a significant difference between the grade given to a child who runs, or even walks, compared to a grade given to child who does not try at all (not addressing medical issues here).
One of the places the participation does count, I think, even if the child walk.
Giving a D for being slow is not a big incentive compared to an F given when doing nothing. D sends a msg - why bother?
The good PE teachers (so I thought) I talked with supported this approach.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 31, 2012 at 8:08 am

Quite honestly 9:30 isn't bad (at all). I don't know about JLS, but at Paly and Jordan they would grade you an A if you jogged the entire mile and got a speed similar to your average. They would drop you to a B if you weren't +/- 30 or 45 seconds of your average mile time so that if a 5:00 minute runner suddenly got a 9:10 they could grade him down.... but, of course, if you were sick or something they'd make exceptions. And it varied a bit teacher-to-teacher, some would grade you down if you weren't near 7:30 for guys and 8:30 for girls (maybe it was 8:00? I can't remember)


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2012 at 10:49 am

I'd get your kid to a good doctor who can diagnose subtle things like sleep apnea, auto-immune diseases and other things which involve fatigue. My kids had problems with running like that where there was no stimulation (no ball to be chased or friends to interact with). When their illnesses were treated, the mile time increased dramatically.

We were so lucky to be at a school like Terman where the PE teachers did not treat the kids they way they do at JLS.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I'll check my mile walk time.

If it makes any difference, I can swim a mile in 20 minutes...


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Posted by terman parent
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm

It seems pretty ridiculous to me to grade middles schoolers on their mile time. There are better ways incent improving one's running time. At Terman they give out t-shirts for sub-7 miles. Just being recognized in the sub -9 orsub-8 club or seeing if the whole class can achieve a sub-9 time would be more effective than grading students and would emphasize other values as well. Why do something that just makes some kids hate jogging rather than doing something that promotes jogging.


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Posted by only in PAUSD
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm

why is gym a hazing ritual? Why is gym graded on anything other than participation, let alone giving a kid a D? What if you had some fun games that everyone participated in that were healthy outdoor activities and not a grade-grubbing competitive nightmare. One would hope that gym class at least would be something fun and relaxing but no, that too is made stressful. When will we learn?


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I've had the opportunity to see PE at a couple elementary schools recently, the kids were having fun, the teacher was having fun, all the kids were participating. Then I walk by the Jordan field and see the mostly miserable faces jogging around the bumpy, muddy field next to a noisy construction site.

Not that the kids should run/jog but I always get the feeling that making th middle school kids run is simply laziness on the part of the PE teacher. If they are running, not need to plan anything fun or heaven forbid - teach them a sport or activity they may continue with as an adult or older teen.

PE should be pass/fail, effort only.


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Posted by My school
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 1, 2012 at 7:56 pm

At my school, the PE teachers grade on effort and improvement over the school year. They're ony graded against their own efforts, not the average 8th grader or whatever.

I would contact the teacher, ask for a meeting to discuss, and if it doesn't go well, speak with an administrator.


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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Why is PE graded at all, other than pass/fail? it is important, yes, but not academic and should not be graded the same way that academic subjects are. It certainly should not be allowed to affect one's GPA!


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Posted by New in Town
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I'm very sorry to hear JLS is grading PE so harshly. It's like a flashback to the 70s when I was in middle school. Every quarter I received an F in the flexibility test because I could not touch my toes while sitting straight-legged with my flat feet against the wall. My doctor said I have "short ligaments", but the PE teacher still gave me that F resulting in a B grade in PE and a 3.86 GPA every single quarter of 7th and 8th grade. I never had a 4.0 because I could not touch my toes. No Deans List for me....and you should have seen this overweight PE teacher - no way she could touch her toes! I'm in my late 40s (and can touch my toes most of the time after years of yoga), but I still remember this.

I'm sorry your son is experiencing this and I do think you ought to talk with the school. He is probably one of many who could potentially lose interest in fitness due to the all-or-nothing mentality that is best left in the 70s.


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Posted by John94306
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2012 at 9:29 am

John94306 is a registered user.

I think PE is no different than other subjects.
It's reasonable to have objective standards (no curves) and grade appropriately.

PA Mom - what would you do if this was a math class and he was struggling?
If this were my kid, I would:

a) do some online research on how to train for 1 mile run. Talk to the PE teacher for suggestions, as well. From your description, it sounds like learning how to pace would be helpful. e.g. if his goal is 8 min mile, then use a digital watch to target 2 min / lap around the track.

b) do "daily PE homework" runs with my kid for 10 mins around the neighborhood. Consider earphones + music to make the run more fun. Or talk during the run. Associate running with positive feelings. I'd use smartphone running apps to track how far we run. Make it a game to continually increase the distance we run in the 10 minute period.

Team and Training has helped lots of out of shape folks learn how to run a marathon. With a team (you) and consistent training, your son will be able to reach his 1 mi goals.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 9, 2012 at 1:40 am

Based on my experience with our two kids, currently at Gunn and JLS, much depends on who you have for your PE teacher. How frequent the students have to run the mile, how much weight is given to the mile-run in one's overall PE grade varies a good deal from teacher to teacher. I also wasn't aware that boys and girls are graded on different scales until my 6th grader brought it to my attention. I fail to understand why at that age, when girls are physically more mature and can often run faster than boys, the scale is tilted much in the girls' favor.

In my humble opinion, the goal of PE at a public school ought to be to promote kids to be physically active for a life time. It should not be a boot camp experience that makes them averse to running or exercising as soon as they are no longer required to take PE.


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