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NCLB Outrages

Tacoma School District Official: Recess Forbiddn!

Ohanian Comment: Assistant Superintent Clarke's edict is so patently ignorant she shouldn't be allowed to have any decision-making power over children's lives. Anyone who knows anything about children knows that play is their work. Here's what psychologist Jane Healy says:
"Learning the multiplication tables and the alphabet are very important. But those skills need to reside inside a mind that has been expanded by the imaginative and joyous exploration of our environment and the possibility that it offers for fun,"

Note how Clarke brings this back to NLB.

If the teachers' union won't take this as a grievance issue, let's hope the parents will.

TACOMA, Wash. -- Outside of lunch playtime, recess is forbidden, a Tacoma School District official has found it necessary to remind principals.

"If we want students learning to high standards, we need them in the classroom, not the playground," Karyn Clarke, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, said this week.

At least 20 of the district's 36 elementary schools have no breaks except for lunch, The News Tribune of Tacoma found in a quick survey.

But Whittier, the one determined to have a formal afternoon recess signaled by a bell, led the district in math and writing scores for fourth-graders and ranked second in reading on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.

"If you take it away, all the kids will be grouchy," student Elizabeth Withrow told the newspaper.

At several other schools, several teachers might arrange to have recess at the same time every day, taking turns supervising.

"We just can't do that," Clarke said.

A teachers union leader and some parents challenged Clarke's recent memo, which she said summarized a district position established in 1997.

The district did not immediately respond Thursday to Associated Press requests for a copy of the 1997 rule, and Clarke did not return a call for comment.

Gayle Nakayama, Tacoma teachers union president, and others recall the 1997 recess rule as allowing teachers to schedule daily breaks if they watched children themselves.

"I haven't seen evidence that getting rid of recess increases learning," Nakayama said, but there is research suggesting social, physical and emotional benefits of exercise and recess.

"I think it's absolutely important kids have free time," said Elizabeth Withrow's mother, LeEllen Withrow.

The Tacoma Education Association feels the decision on recess should be made by school staff, Nakayama said.

Tacoma's move echoes similar actions around the country, and comes as obesity takes center stage as a U.S. health concern.

Elementary students regularly move from one activity to the next within the classroom and the school, Clarke noted. And they have PE class to address obesity concerns.

"I think it's just a symptom of the obsession with testing that we have with our state and across the nation right now," said Charles Hasse, president of the Washington Education Association.

The statewide teachers union passed a resolution in 1996 calling for recess breaks every two to three hours for elementary students, Hasse said.

Unstructured play allows children to learn creativity and cooperation, and how to interact and constructively compete with others, according to the National Association for Sport & Physical Education, which has urged schools to keep recess and PE programs.

Tacoma has a shorter school day than some other districts, Clarke said. And the district is on the government's list of those that must improve under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

It's fine for children to have a brief break on a particular day because they are restless or sluggish, Clarke told the newspaper - but it's not supposed to be a daily occurrence.

— Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer


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