KUOW's Ann Dornfeld has done a three-part series on PE in public schools that is both informative and illuminating. Some of what she reports is troubling.
Part One - Seattle Area Kids Don't Get Enough P.E., but Who's Keeping Track?
This was the most troubling part as we find that neither SPS nor OSPI is really tracking what is a legal requirement. In fact, SPS almost has a "all the other kids are doing it" attitude.
But a KUOW investigation found that few elementary schools in the
Seattle area provide the required amount of P.E. In fact, not one of the
eight Seattle-area school districts contacted by KUOW meets the state
Who is keeping track of how much P.E. students are getting? Not Olympia’s state school officials.
do not have a data collection mechanism in place," said Lisa Rakoz, the
health and fitness education program supervisor at the Office of
Superintendent of Public Instruction.
"We trust that school districts will comply with all of the rules and regulations," Rakoz said.
I find that last one laughable because if districts tried to not follow other state dictates, they would probably be in a lot of trouble.
Equally troubling from SPS' own director of P.E., Lori Dunn:
In Seattle Public Schools, Lori Dunn, the Physical Education Program
manager, said she doesn’t know how many district schools are out of
compliance with the state’s P.E. law.
"Because there hadn’t really been an accountability piece throughout our state, it hasn’t been policed," Dunn said.
Uh, could the district not just be accountable on its own?
Part Two - Recess Shrinks at Seattle Schools; Poor Schools Fare Worst
In Seattle, the length of recess varies dramatically from school to school – from an hour to just 15 minutes.
The investigation also revealed that schools with the shortest recess
times have more low-income students and students of color.
Many principals – especially those at schools with a higher percentage
of low-income students – said they limit recess to avoid discipline
Whoa. Kids don't get needed fresh air, social time and activity because principals can't keep the peace? Something's not right about that.
Once again, a puzzling statement from P.E. Director, Lori Dunn:
"Actually, I haven’t been aware of the trend in data, but I could
realize that it’s true," said Lori Dunn, the physical education program
manager for Seattle Public Schools.
Part Three - Recess, Once Free Time, Gets an Overhaul
Big signs – and supervisors – direct students to organized games on different areas of the playground.
Each game has schoolwide rules, and each is supervised by a 4th or 5th grader wearing a neon yellow safety vest.
Bellevue School District did what a growing number of schools around the
country have done, and hired a national organization called Playworks
to make-over recesses at the district’s highest-poverty elementary
But, in interviewing a couple of second graders, Dornfeld found they said they would like a mix of structured and free play.
Jia nodded. "So you get a chance to play with your friends, and you
get a chance to play Playworks games, and it would be super-fun," she
Here's an interesting scenario:
As a Playworks recess began at Ardmore, two young boys hadn’t chosen a game.
Instead, they stood on the sidelines, gazing up at the sky.
Norton tried to hustle them to a game.
could play soccer, or they have another game over here, with Patty,"
Norton said. "What are you going to go play? Make a decision! Recess
One of the boys looked at her and smiled.
“We’re just looking at the clouds," he said.
Good for you, boys.