CPS: Mandate recess for all students

CPS Executive Director Lisa Guisbond testified on Sept. 4 before the Joint Committee on Education in favor of bills to guarantee students a minimum of 20 minutes a day of recess. Here is her testimony:

As students and educators return to school, access to recess is among many issues on their minds.

Unfortunately, this hearing’s timing means that most could not come to share their wisdom about what happens when students do not have recess, and what happens when they do.

There is abundant evidence confirming the essential need for recess for students’ physical and emotional health, social development and academic success.

Just in time for your deliberations, a paper has been released titled “A research-based case for recess” by Prof. Jarrett of Georgia State. My written testimony includes a link to the paper: https://usplaycoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Need-for-Recess-2019-FINAL-for-web.pdf

Among the paper’s many findings is that there are vast inequities in access to recess.

For example, a 2007 survey of 1,055 schools found access was affected by school size, location, region, minority enrollment, and eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch. Large, urban, Southeastern schools with high poverty and high minority populations had the least recess, sometimes none at all. Children attending private schools have 30 minutes more recess a week than children attending public school.

Unfortunately, in the post-NCLB era, the pressure to show academic progress in “underperforming schools,” which tend to be in low-income communities, means pressure to increase time for academics and decrease or eliminate time for recess.

Worse, many educators continue to punish students by taking away recess, which often worsens the behaviors that resulted in the punishment.

Finally, I have been to enough hearings to know how long you sometimes have to sit and listen to public testimony — some lively and interesting, others not so much. I’ll go out on a limb and say that you know how hard it is to pay attention and absorb information for hours on end without being able to get up and move. Yet, for some reason, we expect our children to sit still and pay attention every day for long periods of time. 

Jarrett’s paper concludes: “Advocates for the well being of all children need to be concerned about the number of children deprived of recess. Given the strong evidence suggesting recess meets so many physical, social, emotional, and academic needs, recess for all is a goal worth pursuing. State mandates that require daily recess for ALL students seem to be the best way to ensure that every child gets recess.”

I urge you to report H.426 and S.330 out favorably.