Friday, January 4, 2013

No child left behind in recess?

Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new policy statement on the importance of recess during school for kids. Recess is NOT the same as physical education, the statement makes is clear that both are needed.

This certainly isn't the first time that we've been told that kids need more recess. As childhood obesity has become a mainstream issue, many parents and policymakers have argued that recess is critical for kids to ensure they are active during the day. However, many schools continued to focus on classroom instruction time, particularly with regard to the standardized testing required as part of No Child Left Behind. My personal experience has been one of frustration with the seemingly endless amount of class time and homework for my children, but I'm also sympathetic to the administrators and teachers who are so dependent on successful testing scores.

One thing the policy statement makes clear (and this is not new information, but it's always nice to see it in an actual policy statement) is that recess is not good just for children's bodies, but their social, emotional, and cognitive development. In short--if you replace class time with recess, you get kids who are more successful in class.

Will this make a difference? I just don't know. I think the culture of testing has become the axle around which all of public school instruction turns. A policy statement is a start, but schools have rarely heeded the advice from non-educational professionals. I don't think it's because they don't want to, but because the risk of poor test scores is too great. We've created a monster that, in its effort to hold teachers and schools accountable to children's educational success, is not held accountable for the damage it does to children's overall health and success.

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