In the news: Recess improves student discipline

11:39 pm

A new study in the journal Pediatrics finds that school recess ameliorates student behavior problems, and that children with limited recess time are more likely to be black, poor and urban.

There is anecdotal evidence in Portland (PPS does not keep track of recess time centrally) that schools with high poverty and minority concentrations tend to limit recess time in order to maximize instructional time, ostensibly to improve test scores.

(Thanks to reader Buzz for the tip.)

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Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

filed under: Equity, Media, National

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15 Responses

  1. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Schools also limit recess because — according to them — recess causes problems. I wrote about this in another thread on this blog, but allow me to repeat it here.

    A colleague of mine teaches pre-K in a low-income, high-minority school in PPS. She told me that Kindergarten kids have one 15-minute recess per day. But they fold lunch into recess. So what happens is this: the kids eat their lunch as quickly as possible — or not at all — and then rush out to the play area as quickly as possible. This is the only free time they have all day and have been sitting still all morning long, sometimes for 90 minutes at a time. Lo and behold, she told me, there are often lots of fights and mishaps on the playground, so much so that there’s talk of banning recess. It doesn’t occur to the administrators, she tells me, that a LACK of recess is what is causing the problems at recess. So what’s the solution? Ban the one thing that might actually help solve the problem.

  2. Comment from Rita Moore:

    I know parents who have pulled kids out of a school over the recess issue. It is astonishing to me that anyone — never mind professional educators — would think it reasonable to deny young children time to run around.

    I daresay few of those adults would agree to being chained to a chair for 6 hours. Union grievance anyone?

    Although I welcome these findings, the fact that this practice is prevalent enough to warrant an article in a major medical journal is yet another indication that the educational establishment has lost all sense of normalcy. I’d feel better if I thought for a moment that this research would have any impact on policies, but I know better. I despair.

  3. Comment from Terry:

    When I was teaching middle school, we did a survey on student learning styles.

    To nobody’s surprise, virtually all the seventh graders came out “kinesthetic” learners, meaning they learned best when they were allowed to move around rather than sitting at a desk.

    I imagine that primary age students are even more wired for movement.

  4. Comment from marcia:

    Not only does recess allow kids to blow off steam, it also contributes to learning. To be able to sit at a desk for extended periods of time, you need developed muscles to allow this. (monkey bars, climbing, running…) In order to hold a pencil, you need a strong finger grip…(monkey bars, jump rope…etc..) get the picture? The principals who allow recess to be banned are very shortsighted.

  5. Comment from Zarwen:

    I remember when I took my teacher training back in the early ’80’s, one of the things we were taught was the relative importance of movement; that is to say, the degree of importance was relative to the age of the child. I remember quite well our professor explaining that, for very young children, e.g. preschool-K, sitting still induces low levels of PAIN.

  6. Comment from ohme:

    The “no recess to improve test scores” idea is insanity. I don’t know how to fix this, except for parents being OUTRAGED and letting principals know constantly how bad this is for kids. It would also help if teachers had the right to choose what is best for their students in this regard, rather than administrators. We know if the kids need a break more than anyone-we are in the room with them! I also think back to any workshop or class I have taken-after 2 hours in a chair, ADULTS need a break. Why would k-3 students need any less?
    We also need a discussion about minimum lunch times. My k-8 has only 30 minutes for lunch AND recess. This is not enough time for little children to eat and play. Convicts get more time to eat than our children do. They need at LEAST 20 minutes for eating and 20 minutes for playing. (I would prefer 25 for each). The excuses we get from administration about why small children do not get more time for recess are ridiculous.
    We are told to spend a certain amount of minutes on reading, writing, math…but putting these minutes in your schedule and keeping children in their seat for that time does NOT guarantee good learning.
    Parents, speak up! Insist on better for your child!

  7. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    ohme – I’ve talked to lots of parents about this. It doesn’t seem to bother them. I end up feeling like I must be the one with the problem. But then I stop and say, “Wait a minute . . . huh???” One of the chief reasons I elected to take my kid out of our neighborhood school was precisely this reason. A full-day Kindergarten program where they have 15 minutes of recess and then a lunch/recess combo for 30 minutes. Figure they spend 15 minutes eating and then go outside. That’s 30 minutes total in a day that starts at 8:30 in the morning and goes until 3 in the afternoon. We’re talking about 5 and 6-year olds here! If there’s someone on this blog who understands this policy, please enlighten me!

  8. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Peter — it bothers this mom. You’re not alone.

  9. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    My understanding is that at the K8s, lunch/recess periods are squeezed even more, all the way down to K.

  10. Comment from enoughsugarcoatingalready:

    One thing that I just found out about my childs school, which will become a full k-8 in the fall ( they added 6th grade 2 years ago, 7th grade last year ) is that students used to have the option of going to the library during their lunch recess if they wanted to ( of course, on most days and with most kids, running around outside is the preferred way to spend recess ) however, this option no longer exists..want to know why? The library has now become the teachers lunch lounge as their old teachers lounge is now a classroom. So perhaps next year, when 8th grade moves in…the library will be on rolling carts in order to use the library as a classroom and the teachers will eat in their…cars?

  11. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    enough sugar,

    oh. My God. Please tell me you’re joking? But I know you’re not.

  12. Comment from marcia:

    Timely. I was just reading article in there says kids who are denied recess are more unruly and more obese…according to researchers at New york’s Albert Eistein College of Medicine. I don’t think we need Einstein to decipher this…The article goes on to state that “increasing seat time” is not the answer… In Asia (the countries who usually outstrip us in test scores)…most elementary schools provide a 10 minute break after every 40 to 50 minutes of insturctional time…..Susan Ohanian emailed me last year after a trip to Korea..and talked about how wonderful the programs there were for the younger kids…Rooms filled with plastic jumpy balls for play time…recess…etc..Maybe we are missing something here…

  13. Comment from ourkidsdeservemore:

    I have been begging, pleading, arguing for our children to have recess. My children went from happy, excited to attend school to fighting not to go. I have heard too many stories about entire classes being punished for one’s inappropriate behavior. Silent lunches, no recess, when are parents going to fight for their kids?

  14. Comment from pdxmomto2:

    I have just heard through the grape vine that recess has been reduced to one 10 minute period per day at the neighborhood school my daughter will be attending Kindergarten at this year (Vernon). I’m outraged, and depressed…. and considering home schooling…

    I’ve decided she can go to school as long as SHE wants to, but if she doesn’t want to go I will not make her go.

  15. Comment from Steve Buel:

    When they start talking about time on task and increasing the school year it is so short-sighted. One of the recent books I have read on the brain even talks about the importance of recess and PE to learning.