Weight Grade on Report Cards Angers Parents

On this particular lunch day, there was a table of kindergartners happily chomping on raw broccoli. "It's good for you," they exclaimed.

BMI: Quick, Easy, Inaccurate?

Jim Coca, the physical education teacher at Wagon Wheel Elementary, said the health of his students is being measured by a the wrong yardstick.

"I disagree with body mass index," said Coca. "We're using it as a body fat index and that's not what it is. I've seen inconsistencies when I'm doing it with my kids. It's quick and easy, but I think it's inaccurate."

Coca said the research he has done on BMI has shown some inconsistencies. "A student with a high body mass index could be obese, but he could also be muscular. Over the research I've done, I've also found out that … a student in the normal range, could have a high percent of body fat and not be carrying muscle, and still be considered normal. So, I see inconsistencies in both directions."

"Well, if you look at the BMI report, it isn't 100 percent accurate," Fall admitted. "No question about it. I think if you're using it for aggregate data, like we're using it, or you're using it to point out that this child may have a problem and then we want them to go in and get a complete package done on the wellness machine we have for kids … it's fine."

Fine, unless it's misleading, Barbour argues. And she says her son Taylor, though on the bigger side, is fit.

Healthy Kids Make Healthier Grades

Still, why argue against kids eating broccoli? Or kids getting exercise? Of the more than 200 families invited to send their kids to the free workout program based on their BMI results, eight have accepted the offer.

Barbour is not one of them. "I think my anger is over pinpointing. I think if it would have been offered to everybody, schoolwide, and first come, first serve, the kids that wanted to participate, I wouldn't have had a problem with that. But by pinpointing the kids, and the issues we've been through in the past, I just didn't want to go back there."

In the end, Fall said healthy kids make better students. "It is an academic issue, and an education issue, in my opinion. And that's why putting it on the report card, I think, is the right thing to do."

This report originally aired on May 8, 2007.

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