Schools, Pressed to Achieve, Put the Squeeze on Recess
- Schools, Pressed to Achieve, Put the Squeeze on Recess
By Margaret Webb Pressler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 1, 2006; Page A01
Ask any group of kids what they like
best about school and one answer will
come up over and over: recess.
Who doesn't remember that wonderful
moment when you finally got to run out
to the playground, carefree, for a pickup
game of four square or dodge ball?
But for many kids today, the recess bell
comes too late, for too little time,
or even not at all. Pressure to raise
test scores and adhere to state-mandated
academic requirements is squeezing recess
out of the school day. In many schools,
it's just 10 or 15 minutes, if at all.
In some cases, recess has become
structured with organized games -- yes,
recess is being taught.
Recess time varies across the region,
and few school districts have standard
policies. At Flint Hill Elementary School
in Vienna, it is 15 minutes a day.
In the District, officials say schools
"aim for" 20 minutes. At Rosemary Hills
Primary School in Silver Spring, the kids
get half an hour. But at most middle
schools, rece ss ha s been eliminated.
Parents -- and kids -- are starting to
fight back. Recess defense groups have
formed nationally. And locally, the fight
is underway in Arlington County, where the
School Board has twice had to delay voting
on its new "wellness program" because parents
were so angry that it proposed a standard of
only 15 minutes for recess. A revised proposal
is to be voted on tonight.
"Recess is too valuable to our students' lives
to be the leftover time in the school day,"
said Diane Schwartz, whose son attends Ashlawn
Elementary School. "Our schools need to take the
Academics and psychologists who study childhood
development are growing concerned about overly
structured, less playful school days, arguing
that free play is extremely valuable to kids
and their development.
"This is the one time during the day that they
have the freedom, or the power, to control what
they will be doing in terms of decision-making,
in terms of negotiation, in terms of conflict
resolution with their peers," said Audrey
Skrupskelis, associate professor of early
childhood education at the University of
South Carolina in Aiken.
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