Amount of Recess Time in Seattle Public Schools

Excellent story from KUOW's Ann Dornfeld about recess in Seattle Public Schools.  It  should come as no surprise to anyone that schools that are largely white have more recess time in the day than schools that have largely Black students.
SEA helped several years back during contract time:
Seattle Education Association, the teachers’ union, bargained a 30-minute recess minimum at all elementary schools to address the recess gap. 
As well, national PTSA advocates for more recess:
The national PTA has called for schools to increase recess times, and mandatory recess minutes have become law in several states.
I'm not sure about WSPTSA or SCPTSA. Anyone?

I know what I believe - elementary kids need recess throughout the day.  WHO recommends one hour.  Recess helps on so many levels and when you trim it, you are not going to see the results you want in the classroom.  However KUOW makes an important point:
Over the years, principals have told KUOW that they limit recess for one major reason: It cuts down on opportunities for conflict on the playground — conflict that staff then must resolve, which cuts into learning time.
Why would there be more conflict in minority population elementaries versus white elementaries? Maybe there's a question to ask rather than limit the time.

As well, I know that monitoring is a challenge to staff.

What does research say?
“Kids from lower-income communities may not have resources in the home, or in their neighborhood, to be physically active,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg said physical activity has been shown to decrease depression in children, and help kids with behavioral problems cope with stress.
That’s especially helpful for kids from low-income families, Rosenberg said, who are often dealing with a lot outside of school.

Rosenberg said that some principals seem to believe that more time in the classroom will boost test scores.

Instead, she said, research shows that some of that class time would be better spent letting kids have more recess.

Van Asselt's principal said this:
Lam said she wants the district to stick to its 30-minute recess minimum, and not add to it. “Every school, every demographic, every group is different,” she said.
The principal at View Ridge had a different thought:
Ed Roos, the principal at View Ridge Elementary, said that teachers took note. “They noticed that when the kids had more recess, they were a little bit calmer and on-task in the classroom, and so they had requested that we increase the recess,” Roos said.
I'm not sure if there is any "wrong" answer but no matter the background/race/ethnic group, we are talking about little kids and physical activity.

What I find so egregious is that the Superintendent makes all these noises about equity when it is in her power to mandate the length of recess in the school day.  It is within the power of principals at the largely minority schools to length the amount of recess in the school day.

But neither is going to do it because they believe the students in the mostly minority schools need more seat time. 


Anonymous said…
Here's a clear case of an inequity and SPS continues to do nothing. Jesse Hagopian is right that all schools need more recess time - it would really be going in the wrong direction if drop-ceiling folks argue the answer should be for all kids to get less recess time.

As to the conflicts, it sounds like this is an important element of ending a school to prison pipeline. If administrators at schools with large POC populations think there's a lot of conflict on playgrounds, then perhaps that suggests something worrying about how those administrators think of those students. And those administrators' answer is to basically turn the school into a prison. They're teaching kids of color that 1) they're more prone to conflict (which those kids aren't) and 2) that the answer is to police them and treat them like prisoners.

The equitable solution is 1 hour of recess at every SPS elementary starting right now.

Play Time
Unknown said…
Hi Melissa and All,

I agree with Play Time, especially that second paragraph. Schools with more white kids are more tolerant and place more trust in students. Schools that are more not white are more disciplinary and authoritarian.

Personally, I think the middle path best. The upper middle class kids at my north end high school are doing deep harm to one another, and admin is letting them run wild because they're afraid of parents and have an easy-going relationship with the kids.

We've gone hands-off because of the school to prison pipeline, but we're a very majority white school, so it's absurd.

Kids need recess, and along with that comes the space to do real socio-emotional learning, not just scripted workbook lessons led by a nice white lady. If you want kids to learn, they must have the freedom to make mistakes and suffer consequences. That is socio-emotional learning, so when a principal has to teach two kids not to be jerks to one another, that principal is educating.

The problem with that is that that learning isn't on the SBACC, so the principal is in a bind.

SP, elementary and high school are different. But yes, if kids don't learn norms of respect and kindness and empathy, there will likely be issues in middle and high school.

I think norms need to adjust for age. And high schools tend to allow teachers to do their own thing which I think can be confusing to kids.
Anonymous said…
This KUOW piece mentioned that things changed in 2015 or so where schools now require a minimum of 30 minutes. Before that they had less I guess!

I have a 15 year old now, but when she went to school (in north end schools) they had two recesses, around 20 minutes, plus another 30 minutes that included lunch, until maybe 4th or 5th grade.

Then they went to 30 minutes total once per day in 4th or 5th which included lunch. This is the same for middle (Hamilton) and now high school in NW.

I have felt very badly over the years for the kids at all the schools he attended, as all the schools have also been very severely overcrowded.

Consider for a minute that kids who might also be free & reduced lunch buy their lunch in those schools. They have to wait in very long lines and don't have any down time as it is just enough time to get their lunch and eat. My kid also avoids going to the bathroom as she has no time.

The KUOW piece is focused on younger elementary grades, but I think they should get more time in later grades as well. This is also something that needs to be standardized in our district across schools! I could not believe what I heard as this district is supposed to be focused on equity. This needs to change! I highly doubt that the schools who cut recess so they can add more math & reading time have made much of a dent in the achievement gap.

NW parent
Outsider said…
Staff might like the effect that recess has on students, but staff hate supervising recess. Sometimes the task is loaded onto paras, but paras hate it too. Paras quit because they don't want to supervise recess. It's cold, and wet, and stressful to be constantly trying to keep students in line when you have no real disciplinary authority and the students know it. You think of recess as fun and games, but it also gives students endless opportunity to injure themselves, injure each other, drift out of bounds, and get into all sorts of mischief.

Once again, the elephant in the room is laughing his trunk off because no one seems to see him. Upscale white schools have more recess because: the PTA can raise funds to hire recess monitors to take that burden off the staff; and those students have somewhat fewer behavioral issues making recess supervision less stressful.

Recess is expensive. To have lots of recess without putting the supervision burden on the staff, each building needs an extra $50K in cash each year to hire monitors.
Anonymous said…
@Outsider In response to your comment, our elemetary school was not upscale, it's middle class and they did not hire monitors. The office staff did double duty to supervise and at times parent volunteers. There were playground incidents that also told me there was not enough supervision. We need to be careful about creating extreme dichotomies (rich versus poor, white versus black) and narratives that play into stereotypes on this topic. The recess issue needs to be equal across all schools.

However not just the younger kids, but the kids in 4th grade up to 12th grade IMO need more time as well. The super severe overcrowding at some of those schools makes this issue at times 10 times worse. The kids could not get through the line to buy lunch plus have time to eat, and have down time. They have no time to also get to the bathroom etc. There are also F&R lunch kids at all these schools that get lost in this conversation as well.

NW parent
Anonymous said…
Soooooo happy my son goes to private school and he gets enough recess to be a kid. SPS should analize the benefits of proper recess and playtime and fund correctly.

Wow Lady
BFD said…
I'm sure SCPTSA will be working hard to take back "extra" recess time from the middle class schools. The answer should be to demand and require and *FUND* ample recess for all students. Too bad children have zero political power :-(

Also, why does SPS hire principals who say limiting recess time cuts down on fighting? That's like saying that limiting sleep time cuts down on nightmares.
Anonymous said…
What do you mean? Why SCPTSA? Have they made a statement against recess? Or are you just blabbing?
Wow Lady
Anonymous said…
@Wow Lady

I interpreted BDF's comment to mean that instead of arguing for something better for all kids, often times folks "leading the charge" take equity to mean taking away from middle class schools. Even though they also have FRL students, and this kind of situation is not good for all kids. Middle class public schools that also have FRL kids have become labeled rich, privileged, white/Asian and become a target instead of lifting the boats for all kids. The fact that these schools also often have issues such as severe overcrowding as well as crappy buildings and other issues is also ignored. It is far easier to create a scapegoat target, than do the harder work involved of advocating for something better for all kids.

NW parent
Anonymous said…
Again, why SCPTSA? Are they the enemy? If so, somebody better tell them. They spend ridiculous amounts of time serving. For nothing according to you.
Wow Lady
Anonymous said…
@Wow Lady, maybe they meant SEA. Asking for clarification makes sense, but there's no need to blow a gasket over it in the meantime.

deep breaths
NSP said…
SCPTSA has made statements against PTAs funding staff. It would follow that they would be against PTAs funding recess monitors. While I agree that the monitors should be funded by the district for adequate recess across all schools, I'm not holding my breath.
Wow Lady, SCPTSA has frequently spoken about the inequities of PTA funding school to school. It's not a stretch to think they would say this is true for recess monitors. What's weird is talking but yet not leading on making change in that direction.
Anonymous said…
I understand the need to fight for the less privileged, but my issue is that there should be a floor - a bare minimum that all students in every school receive. This includes adequate lunch time, enough resources to provide 30 minutes a day of recess, enough copy paper to last a full school year, a library budget to buy new books every year, at least one field trip per class per year, and so on...

My concern with the fight for equity within PTA funds is that this floor is not being met - at rich, middle class, or poor schools. Once this floor is met by adequate funds from SPS central office (yes I am blaming them - Bellevue and Shoreline and Vashon all get their funds from the state and do not seem to struggle as much as we do) as well as from Washington State, then we can talk about the unfair advantages of PTA funding. Until then, we need to talk about basic needs of all SPS students.

Anonymous said…
The SCPTSA and some of its recent officers have been pretty outspoken about how PTAs should stop raising money for kids to have counselors, so I'm surprised that they are not actively trying to stop kids from getting more than a minimum amount of recess time, too.

Telling PTAs to stop paying for counselors is not at all the same thing as actually getting counselors for children at all schools.

The problem is not that PTAs and PTOs are making it possible for children at some schools to have more recess time. The problem is that our public schools are not providing adequate recess time for all students and as always the impacts of this failure are felt most acutely by the students in families and neighborhoods that are least able to cushion this cataclysmic failure of the state, the district, and the schools.

PTAs pay for recess monitors out of donations or organize volunteers to help supervise recess. That's why I'm surprised not to see SCPTSA telling them to stop. If counselors and librarians and art classes are bad, so is recess supervision.

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools