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NCLB Outrages

Recess time under pressure from FCATs, classwork

Emphasis on those NCLB
numbers pressures schools to cut recess

by Kathy Bushouse and Marc Freeman

West Boynton

Recess for Deborah Conant's fifth-graders
usually includes a pick-up basketball game, a
round of kickball, a Frisbee toss, or a spin on
the playground. After 30 minutes of fun at
noon, the 10- and 11-year-olds head back to

"It's important for them to get their energy
out and socialize and have time to just move
around," said Conant, as she watches her 22
students dart around at Hagen Road Elementary
west of Boynton Beach. "It's pick an activity
and be a part of it."

But daily exercise at elementary schools is
threatened nationwide. A national study found
that while most schools still offer recess for
students, some schools face pressure to shave
time from recess so students can spend more
time on classroom lessons that will help them
on tests such as the Florida Comprehensive
Assessment Test.

The national analysis of federal data by the
Center for Public Education in Alexandria, Va.,
found that nine out of 10 schools still have
regularly scheduled recess, for an average of
30 minutes a day. But the survey found that
some school districts were cutting back on
recess time ΓΆ€” offering 144 minutes a week on
average last year compared to 184 minutes a
week five years earlier.

Recess time varies at the 106 elementary
campuses throughout the Palm Beach County
School District. Recess, or unstructured play,
is in addition to a state-required 150 minutes
of structured physical education a week.

The federal No Child LeftBehind act requires
schools to ensure every child performs at grade
level for reading and math by 2014. Although
Broward County schools still have unstructured
playtime, a continuing focus on testing could
lead local schools to cut that time if students
need help in those subjects, Broward
Superintendent James Notter said.

With much of the school day already devoted to
basic skills, "there's not much time to take
out," he said.

Health specialists say exercise is just as
important as classroom time.

"Teachers will tell you when children have had
time to be physically active ... they are more
attentive and they behave better in the
classroom," said Brenda Greene, director of
school health programs for the National School
Boards Association.

Richard Hughes, principal at Hagen Road
Elementary, says it's increasingly difficult to
squeeze everything into the school day.

But he insisted that all of his kindergarten
through fifth-grade classes get a half-hour of
daily recess.

"It gives kids relief," he said, adding that
they return from recess energized and focusing
on learning. "It's just a great opportunity to
socialize and get to know each other."

Devin Uluc, 10, said recess goes by way too
fast for her and her classmates. She said her
old school in New York City provided 40 minutes
of free time.

"We need exercise," Devin said one recent sunny
afternoon at Hagen Road. "We need to release
our energy."

— By Kathy Bushouse and Marc Freeman
South Florida Sun-Sentinel


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