FUSD fitness app tracks academic growth

A student from Hester Elementary School in Farmersville participates in one of several events at the “Fun Fitness Combine”.(Kenny Goodman)

Program at Farmersville Unified School District aims to improve physical health while tracking how fitness scores affect GPA

FARMERSVILLE – A PE teacher at FUSD is working out the minds and bodies of young students with a fitness tracking program, which is being implemented by the distinct, in hopes of improving their health along with their GPA.

Stephen Ford, a Physical Education (PE) teacher with Farmersville Unified School District, created an app to track the progress of students in PE as well as how that progress affects their overall GPA. The testing for the program this year, named the “fun fitness combine” after the NFL, will be taking place on March 12 and 15.

“What the app does is it has a series of assessments to 12 or 14 different assessments,” Ford said. “It hits eight areas of fitness, (such as) aerobic, anaerobic, agility, speed, strength, endurance – those things.”

With the app, each student is given a score after their first round of testing. After getting the results, students then train and test again while the app continues to track how they are progressing over the school year and how that correlates with their GPA.

“It’s fun for the kids … our ultimate goal is to see progress and academic growth,” Ford said.

In previous years, Ford only used the program with the junior high students. This will be the first year that students at the pre-K, kindergarten and elementary school levels will be included as well. This will allow for the school to see how the children’s physical activity impacts their GPA as they grow.

The addition of the other schools will also provide a larger sample group for the data analysis that the app is tracking. The junior high by itself has around 400 schools, and by widening the pool of students using the app, the number should be increased by about 165 students.

“I’ve been doing this for 15 years…I started it with a question to myself, and it was ‘Does a student’s fitness health influence learning?’,”Ford said,

The program was started by Ford around 15 years ago. He said he hopes to continue expanding and went on to explain his hopes that one day the program will go beyond the app and become a tool that can also help parents monitor their kids’ health.

“I want to do a web app where, now, parents can look at their student’s fitness growth from home on their desktops,” Ford said.

Ford explained the data he’s collected so far has indicated certain trends, which provide a lot of insight into how it impacts the kid’s education. From his observations, he said the academic performance and GPA are directly correlated to how physically fit a child is.

“Just physically and mentally, when you start analyzing their (the kids) BMI…it shows a lot. In fact, one group I just (analyzed)…the lower their body fat was, the higher their GPA was,” Ford said. “And there’s studies out there…You can find there is an occurrence where the lower your body fat is, the better learning you do.”

However, according to the National Library of Medicine, there is no significant correlation between GPA and BMI, or GPA and physical activity. Even still, it seems as though the correlation between physical activity and GPA in adolescents is unclear.

According to an article published in 2023 by the Economics of Education Review, there are some studies that suggest childhood obesity has no impact on school performance, while others indicate that it may have adverse effects.

Still, from what data the app has collected thus far, Ford said the results indicate students who are in better shape do better in school, and this can be used as motivation to stay active.

“You sell it to the kids (by saying) ‘You know the fitter you are, the better you do in your academic classes’,” Ford said.

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