Sad sign of schools in trouble: No recess

Here’s one indicator that testing has gone way too far and is damaging children rather than improving their education: A bill in the Texas House of Representatives requires school districts to consider recess.

Like Dave Barry, we can’t make this stuff up. Rep. Mike Villareal, who represents part of Bexar County in District 123 (near San Antonio) has a bill in the hopper, H. B. 366, which requires districts to have advisory groups to stress the value of recess. (Text of the bill is below the fold.)

Would schools be so crazy as to cancel recess? Yes, that’s been our experience. Cancelling recess gives an elementary school an extra 30 minutes of class time every day. So, to impress administrators somewhere, some schools cancel recess. Despite studies showing that recess boosts learning and test scores, schools are cancelling recess.

Nuts. (Quick, what battle is that from?)



relating to consideration of the importance of daily recess by
local school health advisory councils.
SECTION 1. This Act may be cited as the “Freedom to Play and Learn Act.”
SECTION 2. Section 28.004, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsection (l) to read as follows:
(l) The local school health advisory council shall consider and may make policy recommendations concerning the importance of daily recess for elementary school students. The council may consider any research regarding unsupervised play, academic and social development, and the health benefits of daily recess in making the recommendations. The council shall ensure that local community values are reflected in any policy recommendation made to the district under this subsection.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution. If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2007.

15 Responses to Sad sign of schools in trouble: No recess

  1. Raeven says:

    Yes, schools are canceling recess to add more learning time, prevent potential hazards, “stop” bullying, etc. The problem with this notion is children don’t get a break in the day just like everyone else who works, they don’t have an opportunity to learn social skills while supervised by teachers and other adults (who are normally trained in child psychology), they don’t have a chance to learn problem-solving skills in a child-to-child interactive situation, they don’t have as much of a chance to grow independently, and they don’t get exercise.

    Sure, children might get a scrape, cuts, broken bones, etc. But they’re liable to do that anywhere, anyway, since they are children with energetic hearts. The point is that the more we take away their freedom to be children and play, the less they’ll be able to handle situations on their own as they grow. They also need a chance to get out of their seats and participate in physical activities. Such are vital to their health and to their success in school. It’s not a matter of how MUCH school work they do, it’s a matter of HOW WELL they do at their school work.


  2. meson says:

    Recess is very important. I even think that we should have at least 4 recess periods at least each day. The reason children are restless after recess is because it was not enough. The best amount would be equal amount of class and recess, a recess after each period of class. That way, the children will have enough time digesting the information they just get. Students will be more alert and willing to study. The pressure will also be significantly less.


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    NCLB calls for research-supported solutions in schools. I’d love for someone to challenge the elimination of recreation on that basis. For the workplace, all research shows that “recesses” are vital to getting good work done, and getting it done fast. The organized play of the geniuses at Thomas Edison’s research works are legendary, and full of good ideas (Edison hired people who were also musicians — an artistic outlet, the band they all jammed in, aids creativity and productivity; do you know of a school that has beefed up its music program to improve test scores? No? But if you check, those schools with music programs do better on the tests, and those schools that have added music programs have improved their performance, more than those schools that eliminated the programs).

    I think that all the research I’ve ever seen suggests that eliminated PE and recess is among the best ways to kill test scores.

    We had an option to pull our kids out of the local school that did that, and we did. For our oldest son, the only question he ever missed up to that point was the year they stripped him of play, and joy. I don’t think he missed another question the rest of the time.

    Seriously, get a lawyer’s advice, and quietly ask to see the research that says drill in place of recreation improves scores. I would be surprised if all the research doesn’t say just exactly the opposite.

    Check with the ERIC material still left on line, and call the Department of Education’s research arm, and ask them for references. Ask the school officials for copies of the research articles (and look up the research requirements in NCLB!). Music programs boost math scores, typically. Recess should help boost reading and writing. More importantly, reducing those things makes kids dysfunctional, and drives them to mental disease. That’s also against the law. Schools don’t intend to do these damaging things, but they will if no one calls them on it.

    And by the way, the parts that work are Kennedy’s — the parts that don’t work are Bush’s. Well, that’s only mostly true. Kennedy compromised a lot to get the old ESEA reauthorized, and it came out as the NCLB. Kennedy’s concerns went more toward funding. Bush broke his promise to Kennedy to fully fund the programs. States now struggle to do what the Congress had agreed to pay for. While Bush campaigned in 2000 against “unfunded mandates,” NCLB has become among the larger unfunded mandates in government. Kennedy’s staff is convinced Bush intended to break that promise all along (Bush has never apologized to Kennedy nor done anything to try to set things right).

    Kennedy’s emphasis was on getting funding for the schools to do their work. Bush’s focus was on holding to the fire the feet of teachers. Without the money required, what we get is a law that burns everyone who touches it. I predict it won’t survive the first year of the new Congress.


  4. Gina says:

    Our school is trying to do away with recess and PE to do FORCED tutoring for the TAKS test, whether your child needs tutoring or not! Parents are outraged of course. I don’t think this is the system President Bush thought of when he passed the no child left behind bill. And even though it was his bill, LIBERALS, like TED KENNEDY are the ones that drafted it and that lets you know why it’s not working and it is completely ridiculous!


  5. naisioxerloro says:

    Good design, who make it?


  6. Concerned Parent says:

    This unfortunately has happened in my children’s school. They attend a small Catholic School in San Antonio. This year they have a new principal and lots of changes. The other thing that upsets me is that their PE classes have been reduced to once a week. These children need some way to release their energy. Children need daily physical activity.


  7. […] on the abuses of individual rights. Teachers have them too, you know. A legislator in Texas has proposed a bill to study the value of recess. The testing demands of schooling and the elimination of recess has […]


  8. Ed Darrell says:

    I well remember the inversions in the Salt Lake Valley — my wife and I married there during a very long spell of inversions, a few years ago (that long? whew!). A few wedding guests trained in from Denver. One airplane was allowed to land the morning of our vows, the one carrying my aunt from California. I always thought she had a pipeline to God on some things.

    Still, it’s sad to hear Cache Valley has been so hammered lately. It’s a beautiful place.

    Thanks for the link on middle schools, too. More grist for another post I’m working on.


  9. R. Becker says:

    Possibly related topic: article discusses school districts closing middle schools and jr. high schools and returning to k-8 in one school and 9-12 in another. Is this phenom. as widespread as the article seems to suggest? [I hope it is, but do not know.]


  10. R. Becker says:

    The Logan area is llocated in a relatively narrow mountain valley, more or less a “bowl” and during inversions, cold air is held in the valley and accumulates pollutants until a storm comes through to blow it out. Population in the valley has boomed in recent years, which puts many more autos on the road. Industry adds to the air pollution, which doesn’t matter much until the winter months when inversions trap the pollutants for days and even weeks at a time in the valley. Hence, days on which elementary school students are not permitted outdoors during recess, and the placing of pollution monitors in school playgrounds and, now, in one school, inside the school itself. It turns out that during inversions, the Cache Valley has some of the “dirtiest” air in the country according to the EPA. Until I moved to Utah I too assumed that mountain valleys far from major cities must, necessarily, be areas of clean and healthy air. I learned differently only when I moved here. [NB: inversions plague Salt Lake City and Ogden and much of the Wasatch Front between Provo in the South and Ogden in the North too, but since the low-lying area — below 6K feet — is not as narrowly confined as the Cache Valley, the problems, while bad, are not as bad as they are in Logan and its valley.]


  11. Ed Darrell says:

    R. Becker: Air in Cache Valley bad? Too many sheep? Cheese factory stack filters go out while they were processing limburger? What would cause air quality near Utah State Universityto be so bad, in the relative wilds of northern Utah?


  12. Ed Darrell says:

    Here’s what happened at one of our kids’ schools, an “intermediate” school serving fourth through sixth grades: First they started taking the afternoon recess to do test drills. The drills were games, so that was supposed to be “recess-like.” Then they took the physical education classes over for test drills. At first they used a couple of exercise programs where kids would recite some odd point they were supposed to know from math or history, and then run a relay leg, or something; that lasted about two weeks. Then they were simply drilling from booklets, sitting on the floor of the gym. Then they reduced the passing time between classes to allow more time for drill. Then they eliminated the first recess — test drills, on paper, all day long!

    The principal complained that behavior was declining, that discipline was bad, and so they took to insisting on no talking at all during passing periods, or any time at lockers. Then they announced that kids would be required to pass silently at all times in the hallways, keeping their arms folded behind them. I suggested at a PTA meeting that the rules were too stiff, and when the principal seemed not to get it I pointed out that people on death row in Texas get an hour a day for recreation. She said that the kids hadn’t committed any crimes . . . I guess that was supposed to mean they didn’t “earn” any time off. We filed a protest and got our kid out of the school. Our son had never missed a question on the state exams to that point, and once again had a perfect score. The next fall they passed out award certificates, and mailed them to kids who had moved to other schools, except our kid. It made me crazy.

    That principal is gone now, thank heaven. Most of the schools have reverted to some recess.

    But the mere fact that a legislator feels compelled to introduce the bill is evidence enough that there is something extremely rotten statewide in the system.

    This is the system George W. Bush touted as his great success.

    No, roughhousing and bullying is not the issue.

    Ah, but bullying? You raise another key complaint. The Texas Education Agency pulled out of the National Association of State School Boards because the association created an anti-bullying curriculum available for states to adopt. Texas officials didn’t like the program — it urged an end to bullying of kids who were homosexual. The Texas State Board of Education did not agree that homosexual kids shouldn’t be bullied. So much for compassionate conservatism, eh?

    I think the problems are very much school by school. I visited an elementary in Dallas a handful of years ago, for a Law Day presentation. The principal there was proud of the discipline her students showed, but it was all discipline of respect. She called the kids “Mr.” and “Miss,” and they were unfailingly polite. In the half day I was there I watched kids rush up to give her hugs any time she passed by. She explained that the faculty had decided the school, in a poor neighborhood, should be a sanctuary for the kids. Teachers arrived early to man the corners of the block, so the kids could see (and others could see) that the faculty were watching out for them. After school, teachers again manned the corners of the property, watching kids as far as they could watch, to be sure they got home safely. The library at that school was jammed with kids, quietly (but not silently) going about their studies.

    There is a difference between coercion and discipline, especially in learning. I do not believe many schools understand the difference, and so they resort to coercion, which damages more kids in the long run.


  13. onlycrook says:

    I had a run-in with a parent who felt that recess should be required. We were both in an elementary school PTA (she was president). I explained to her that, from my perspective, recess *did* take too much time out of the day. I worked for a year at a school which had too much recess. By the time the teachers spent 10 minutes getting a class ready (with coats, hats, etc.), then the kids had 20 minutes of recess, then 10 minutes to settle back down–that was 40 minutes of wasted time. Of course, I hated recess as a kid. My best days were the rare ones when I finagled a way to stay inside and read.


  14. R. Becker says:

    Well, up in Layton [Cache Valley] they may be cancelling recess because the air out on the playground is so polluted it’s unhealthy for chilren to breath during inversions. In fact, according to the SL Trib, one elementary school in Cache Valley now not only has an air quaility monitor on its outdoor playground, it also has one INSIDE the school as well.


  15. elektratig says:

    This is one I hadn’t heard about. My immediate reaction: I wonder whether schools are eliminating recess simply to create more class time or for some other reason (or a combination of reasons), such as fear of liability arising or roughhousing, bullying or harassment during recess. Does anyone know?


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