"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Do Parents in the Rockwood School District need to form "Recess Defense Groups"?

A parent in the Rockwood School District is concerned about the school requiring students to run a lap before they can enjoy recess. The parent believes recess should be unstructured time and questioned why the school would require a lap being finished before a child can enjoy some free time.

According to the parent, a counselor at Kellison Elementary School in the Rockwood School (MO) District responded to her question regarding this requirement and this is the parent's version of the school's answer:

"They cut P.E. from 5 days to 4 days. . .so the Recess Committee @ the School Board decided to make up for loss in one day of P.E., they would have the kids run a lap around... the playground everyday. She also said, "Well, it's not a REQUIREMENT" (stress on word requirement-- which makes me believe they were manipulating the kids in this to give them the perception that it WAS a requirement). When asked if the children were told they did not have to run if they did not want to. . .no they were not. The way it was laid out to the kids was no run, no recess... no questions asked.

We have informed the school that we are telling our children they have a choice in the matter and do not have to run if they do not want to. Their response was a short "okay". I recommend that every parent do the same with their children. We can't let the school manipulate the minds of our children, and teach them (by not addressing the issue) that that sort of behavior is acceptable. I refuse to let the government do it to me, and I refuse to let the schools do it to my kids."

I called a few people who have connections to Missouri public education schools. They all confirmed
it is a DESE requirement to have a certain number of minutes per week for physical education. However, the school can CHOOSE to adopt the requirement in the manner of incorporating it into recess to allow more minutes for other instructional time in other areas. You may count recess time as a physical education requirement IF there is physical activity that would satisfy specific mandates for the PE requirements. It would seem the school is/was attempting to force children to use his/her recess time to fulfill those requirements.

Students have scant free, unstructured time in schools today. Schools are data-driven industries and free time available for creative thinking and activity is scarce. Children need time for physical release without the confines of state mandates or adult driven goals. This is not a new concern; read this 2006 Washington Post article on the increasing demands on student time:

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.
"There's more pressure than ever on teachers and higher-stakes accountability," Marinoff said, showing off the complicated charts he uses to plan the day for 550 children. Fifth- and sixth-graders get just 15 minutes of recess, and sometimes there's just no time for recess, so the teacher has to edge in a break.

This scenario may be happening at Kellison Elementary School. The constant pressure to perform well on standardized testing (which is going to become even more intense with the implementation of common core standards) puts children on a hamster-like wheel of education. They can't ever stop and just be kids and...play. If an action can't be applied to a measurable goal and checked off to satisfy an administrator's spreadsheet, it is discounted and cut down to a minimum, or combined with a mandate. The emotional development of children seems to be on the bottom rung of many educators to the peril of the children these same professionals are supposed to be serving:

"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.

"We were researching this issue of childhood obesity. One of the things that came out is [many] schools were planning to eliminate or reduce recess or had already done so," said Jim Samples, Cartoon Network's executive vice president. "Can you imagine if adults had to go all day long without taking a break -- a coffee break? It seems like an absolutely basic thing to me that kids need a break during the day."

Olga Jarrett, an early childhood education professor at Georgia State University, said the decline of recess is causing some playground games to die out, including clapping games such as Miss Mary Mac and jump-rope rhymes. "Children do a lot of transmitting of folk culture," Jarrett said. "When kids don't have recess, there's not another place where that tends to occur."

Clapping games aren't part of the plan at some area schools. In the rush to fight obesity and get kids moving, some schools are adding mandatory activities and exercise time during recess, guided by teachers. They say kids aren't as spontaneous as they used to be, perhaps because they spend so much time in front of televisions, computers and video games. So some schools are asking teachers to lead the way three days a week.

"Before we organized guided play, recess was just a free-for-all, with kids never organizing anything much more in-depth than a game of tag," said Steve Geyer, principal of the elementary school in Berryville, Va.

"They wouldn't organize soccer or relay races or any more complicated games. There needs to be a little more leadership involved," Geyer said.

Child psychologists say these programs may come at a cost.

"If it's structured, it's not recess," said Ford, of George Mason University. "It's not producing the same developmental outcomes."

Cartoon Network started a program called "Rescue Recess" to raise awareness of the danger of the demise of recess. Here is a Facebook page for this same purpose. Rockwood parents may want to join this group and also call the school to register their opinions on this encroachment of creative play.

I believe individual thoughts and actions aren't valued much today in public education. Those behaviors are rather hard to check off on a form to satisfy the state. Kudos to this parent for understanding the importance of a child being able to just be a kid. It's too bad the educators have lost that vision for the students.

1 comment:

  1. My kids go to Kellison. A couple of points: 1)their recess is only 15 minutes long, so requiring the lap really eats into their down time, 2)games that have any kind of "tag" element are prohibited, due to possible injury concerns (a CYA rule, IMO).


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