TALAHASSEE, Fla. – Nearly two dozen elementary schools in Florida are eliminating recess as a means to comply with mandates attached to the Common Core national standards.
The change is part of a nationwide trend to trim or eliminate recess to make room for more instructional time, CINewsNow.com reports, and parents aren’t exactly happy about it.
“At the end of the day, who cares if you have straight As and you get a scholarship to Harvard if you’re socially inept,” Florida mother Meather Mellet told the news site.
“Teachers say they’re having to beat the clock to fit in everything according to Common Core Standards,” CI News reports.
In Orange County, Florida, school officials at 23 elementary schools recently decided to eliminate recess altogether to make room for the mandated 150 minutes of English, 60 minutes of math and 120 minutes of science each week, Fox reports.
“The real issue is trying to mandate a consistent period of recess for an instructional schedule that is already quite demanding,” Orange County superintendent Barbara Jenskins told Fox.
Despite more than 50 parents and students who attended a recent Orange County board meeting to urge officials to reinstate recess.
“It’s sad that we’re even here to begin with,” Jennifer Ashby, mother of two Avalon Elementary students told board members, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“It’s common sense. If kids are meant to focus in the classroom, they need a break for developmental purposes,” she said, adding that her 10-year-old son is more stressed because of the change.
Parent Angela Browning also addressed the board, according to the news site.
“Our children’s well-being is being sacrificed in favor of test scores,” she said.
Mother Anjalia Kramer agreed.
“I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to realize kids learn better when they get time away from the classroom,” she said.
Those are the same arguments made by Forbes columnist Lee Igel in a recent editorial.
Igel cited studies that shows childhood obesity has doubled in the last 30 years, and evidence that top performing school districts in the world ensure students receive unstructured breaks throughout the school day.
“Cramming more and more into the same number of school days makes no sense. If teaching everything is a necessity, which we doubt is the norm, then keeping kids active and healthy has no place to make a sacrifice,” Igel wrote.
“If you think hyperactivity and attention deficit are problems now, let’s see what happens in a school day with no recess and no physical activity.”
Many school districts, unfortunately, are doing exactly that.
Parents in the District of Columbia were outraged when officials cut recess to 15 minutes per day in 2013, and eventually pressured school officials into increasing the minimum recess time to 20 minutes, NBC reports.
The blog Mind Shift also reported on the trend to cut recess last year.
“For many American students, time for recess is at an all-time low: Kids at low-poverty schools in Seattle average 16 minutes more recess than kids at the high-poverty schools. And for many urban kids in big cities like New York and Chicago, outdoor play during the school day is nonexistent,” according to the blog.
“If they don’t have a break their work is poor, their handwriting is bad, their answers are shorter,” veteran teacher Angie Rynearson told CI News. “They just can’t stay on task as long.”
“After hearing from the parents, the Orange (county) board later decided to ask area superintendents to get all elementary principals to work recess and physical activity into their schedules starting next fall,” the Orlando Sentinel reports.
“They also discussed passing a resolution encouraging principals to work recess into school schedules — but not mandating it.”
Meanwhile, groups like Peaceful Playgrounds and KaBOOM! helping parents fight to keep recess in local school districts, and legislators in several states, including Illinois and New Jersey, introduced legislation to require recess for all students, ThinkProgress.org reports.