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Title IX, Obesity, and Academics: The Top K-12 Sports Stories of 2012

With only a few days before the start of 2013, it's time for everyone's favorite end-of-year tradition: year-in-review lists.

For K-12 sports, the year 2012 was one to remember.

In June, Title IX, the landmark federal legislation that prohibits gender discrimination in any federally financed education program or activity, turned 40.

Meanwhile, nine states—Florida, Idaho, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Wisconsin—passed youth-concussion laws in 2012, bringing the total number of states with such laws up to 43 (plus the District of Columbia). (You can browse each state's legislation in our youth-concussion-law map.)

Before the calendar switches to 2013, let's look back at the 10 most-read Schooled in Sports posts this year.

10. Cheerleading Can't Count as Sport for Title IX, Appeals Court Rules
It's been debated for years: Is cheerleading a sport? While the debate hasn't been settled permanently, a federal appeals court ruled in August that colleges can't count competitive cheerleading as a sport to comply with Title IX. Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, called it a "precedent-setting case," and said in an interview, "If cheerleading is underdeveloped at the college level, I can't imagine it'll be declared otherwise at the high school level."

9. Steroid Testing Student-Athletes: Worth the Cost?
This post, which actually came from January 2011, looked at the costs of states' steroid-testing programs for student-athletes. Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey all spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, to test high school student-athletes for steroids, but all three states found very few positive tests compared to the number of students that were tested.

8. 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, By the Academic Numbers
Before the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament kicked off, I highlighted the annual report from the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports that analyzes teams on academic performance. Based on each team's academic-progress rate, the University of Kansas would have taken home the March Madness crown after besting Davidson (N.C.) College in the championship game. (In real life, the Kansas Jayhawks did make it to the championship game, but the University of Kentucky emerged victorious.)

7. Survey: High School Sports Participation at All-Time High
This post, like No. 9, also came from 2011. The National Federation of State High School Association's annual High School Athletics Participation Survey found high school sports participation to have reached a new all-time high during the 2010-11 school year, with a total of 7,667,955 student-athletes participating. That record didn't last long, however. High school sports participation rose again during the 2011-12 school year, setting another all-time high with a total of 7,692,520 participants.

6. How Far Has Physical Education Come in the Past 20 Years?
In terms of health benefits, how far has physical education progressed over the past two decades? Twenty years after publishing the paper "Physical Education's Role in Public Health," the original authors of the paper and a few colleagues looked back to see what still needs improvement. Much like the progress of Title IX, the authors found a half-full, half-empty tale of progress.

5. Math Performance Linked to Child's Weight, Study Finds
A study published in June suggested a link between childhood obesity and math performance, finding that boys and girls who were persistently obese throughout their K-5 years performed significantly worse on math tests than their peers of healthy weight. The researchers discovered that both boys' and girls' math performance was significantly affected by their interpersonal skills, and suggested that childhood obesity could compromise said social skills or relationships with friends.

4. 'Strong Evidence' of Link Between Physical Activity, Academic Success
Can't say I'm surprised to see this one ranked so highly. Schooled in Sports' first blog post of 2012 looked at a review published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that found children who participate in physical activity also tend to benefit in the classroom. The review authors looked at 14 studies and found "strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance." (Other studies published later in the year also suggested a link between physical fitness and academic performance.)

3. Presidential Physical Fitness Test to Be Replaced After 2012-13
In September, news broke that the Presidential Physical Fitness Test (also known as the bane of my childhood) would be replaced starting in 2013-14 with a new Presidential Youth Fitness Program. The new fitness program signals a move away from measuring students' performance and puts more emphasis on assessing students' health. Under the new program, students' fitness will be assessed using the Cooper Institute's FITNESSGRAM, which measures five areas of health-related fitness.

2. Should Schools Make Physical Education Mandatory?
This post, which actually came from January 2011, looked at which states required physical education for K-12 students. At the time, Virginia was the latest state considering whether to make physical education mandatory, although the measure was later vetoed by Gov. Bob McDonnell. In a statement, the governor said, "I have long opposed significant unfunded mandates passed from one level of government to another. Thus, I cannot in good conscience sign this legislation."

1. NCAA Raises Minimum GPA for Incoming Student-Athletes
As it turns out, the most-read Schooled in Sports post in 2012 also came from 2011. This one focused on a package of proposals that the NCAA Division I board of directors approved in October 2011, aimed at boosting academic standards for student-athletes and improving their welfare on campus. Beginning in August 2015, high school student-athletes will need to maintain a 2.3 GPA throughout high school to be immediately eligible to compete as college freshmen. (Currently, freshmen only need a 2.0 high school GPA to be initially deemed eligible.)

My thanks go out to all of you for reading Schooled in Sports this year, and I hope you're ready for plenty more K-12 sports coverage in 2013. You know where to find me.

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