Recess survives (for most kids)

More than 90 percent of elementary students get a 24 to 30-minute recess every day, reports the Center for Public Education. However, schools that once scheduled more than half an hour for recess report shaving minutes. High-minority, high-poverty and urban schools are the most likely to drop recess altogether.

Eighteen percent of elementary schools with a poverty rate over 75 percent do not provide first graders with recess compared to 3 percent of schools with 50–74 percent poverty rate, 4 percent with 35–49 percent poverty rate, and 4 percent of schools with less than 35 percent poverty rate.

These are the kids who are unlikely to have a backyard to play in or a safe park around the corner or an after-school gymnastics class.

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Comments

  1. My large urban/suburban Atlanta area district has an official policy against “unstructured free time.” They won’t even use the word recess. My 7 year old is in his sixth week of school and has not had recess once this year.

  2. On the other hand, I just read that a non-profit somewhere (could be the DC area) just pulled a big grant or contract to teach kids how to “do” recess. I don’t deny the need–kids need to learn some things like how to play group games, how to negotiate conflicts, etc–things that used to come from a combination of the community and the teacher. The City Year program does something similar in the schools that it is involved in, and I have seen it recommended to schools that have various “climate” problems (read: fights and chaos). I tried to suggest something like it to my son’s middle school where they were having enormous problems with the 42 minute lunch period–but they didn’t think the kids would be receptive.

    I can guarantee that No Child Left Behind doesn’t require or suggest the elimination of recess. I am also pretty sure (common sense assumptions and experience–not hard data), that any gain in classroom time is pretty much cancelled out by the increased difficulty in teaching to kids who are fatigued from being seat-bound.

    So–my question is–where is this coming from? Who is making schools and teachers shoot themselves (and the children) in the foot by taking away recess?

  3. And we teachers get to deal with kids who have no time during the day to blow off steam. They are expected to sit still for almost 7 hours straight.

  4. In my district, it clearly came from the school board (probably at the suggestion of the superintendent). The idea was to maximize instructional time. Anyone who has spent a day with a bunch of seven year olds recognizes that the quality of the instructional time diminishes as the day goes on…especially without an opportunity for free play.

  5. Marta:

    Is anyone evaluating the effects of this policy? I would think that few key indicators might be office referrals and test scores–just as a few quick and dirty stats that might be used to make the case. In the end, I think it is really the time on task that either diminishes, or is not truly increased. Perhaps a counter-proposal might be extending the school day in order to allow for needed breaks. Japanese schools incorporate 10 minute breaks after each class period (as well as recess and school clean-up every day)–and have a much longer school day. It seems to work well.

  6. Charles R. Williams says:

    Not only is there no recess but, thanks to the lawyers, the school playground is off limits to neighborhood kids after school.

  7. Not only is there no recess but, thanks to the lawyers, the school playground is off limits to neighborhood kids after school.

    As a counter-point: Not in my neighborhood.

    Though I don’t doubt that this is true at least somewhere in the U.S.

    -Mark Roulo

  8. thanks to the lawyers, the school playground is off limits to neighborhood kids after school.

    More likely the insurance company.

  9. Er, Mrs. Davis, the insurance company exists BECAUSE of the lawyers.

  10. Marta,
    Reference: “anyone with a bunch of 7-year-olds recognizes that the quality of the instructional time diminishes as the day goes on…especially without an opportunity for free play.”

    Good point. I’d like to add that the quality of instructional time diminishes as the day goes on, even for adults! My high school classes lasted 2 hours each. I noticed that after 90 minutes, the kids just couldn’t learn anymore. Even though I varied the activity throughout the classtime. Other teachers echoed this also.
    I also noticed in our district meetings that we had to sit through at the beginning of the school year. After 1 hour, all the adults there were fidgeting in their seats.

  11. It amazes me that we expect from children what the law prohibits us from expecting from the average adult. We can’t make an adult work a 7-hour day without breaks. We have child labor laws and overtime laws, yet we expect children to labor over schoolwork at school for those 7 hours, then do several hours more at home. I can’t IMAGINE teaching my class without recess. Children simply can not stay on task for that long–it goes against every piece of brain research that there is.

    What is wrong with our society, that we think forced servitude is the answer to educating our children? What is the matter with the people who make policy that they ignore every piece of research that exists about children’s ability to stay on task, the fact that they mature at different rates and have different abilities, and that homework in elementary school is ineffective, if not counter-productive. Sheesh. No wonder we have insane dropout rates.