By Ken Reed
A suburban Denver school district has decided that the best way to increase the academic performance of its students is to cut recess time.
The research says the school district couldn’t be more wrong.
According to an article by Ann Schimke posted on chalkbeat.org, elementary children in Adams 14 school district get about 15 minutes of recess time a day, but as little as seven minutes on some days, according to teachers.
Cutting recess time — along with the equally troubling national trend of cutting the number of physical education classes students are required to take — is a completely misguided and inappropriate strategy for increasing academic performance. In fact, based on a growing mound of research, it’s the exact opposite of what needs to be done to not only boost academic performance, but also decrease health and behavioral problems.
“I honestly think it’s going to bring (test) scores down,” says Hanson Elementary teacher Jodi Connelly. “To tell them you’re going to have to sit in a chair all day long … and have things put in your head …. That’s not how they’re wired.”
No, it’s not how kids are wired. And it’s not what their bodies or brains need.
Over 75 percent of American children are not even active for 20 minutes a day! The country is in the midst of a childhood obesity crisis. We need to get our children moving more to improve their short and long-term health.
But let’s put the positive health benefits of getting kids more active to the side for a minute. The fact is, cardiovascular exercise also positively impacts the brain and academic performance. Kids would be much better served going for a vigorous 20-minute walk before a test than studying for an extra 20 minutes.
“Exercise is like Miracle-Gro for the brain,” says Dr. John Ratey, author of SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. “It grows brain cells.”
The “Father of Aerobics,” Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, Texas, concurs with Ratey.
“Students at schools with daily fitness-oriented physical education programs are reaping benefits of being physically fit: 1) improved health; 2) higher academic performance; and 3) fewer behavioral problems. There’s more good news. Exercise has also been shown to improve attention span and focus, lower anxiety and depression levels, and raise self-esteem.”
Educators and school board members in Colorado’s Adams 14 school district who pushed for, and implemented, this irresponsible plan are committing educational malpractice. They, and any other like-minded school districts, need to be stopped.
The clear solution to academic, behavioral and health challenges is more recess and P.E. time, not less.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.