Restoring recess: Why Dallas ISD wants to make it mandatory again

Elementary students may soon be getting a break from the classroom.

DALLAS – Dallas Independent School District Trustee Miguel Solis donned the uniform red shirt of Foster Elementary students on Tuesday and went back to school to research recess.

"Twenty minutes of recess in Dallas ISD can be done, and — in many cases — is being done," he said.

At issue is whether the district should restore recess as a mandatory part of the school day for elementary students.

"Kids need time to get out that energy, so when they go back in the classroom their brains aren't buzzing because they've been sitting there all day," said Foster Elementary Principal Zack Hall. "They're ready to learn. They're primed."

Mandatory recess was phased out about 14 years ago. 

A recent internal survey showed 75 percent of Dallas ISD schools still offer 11 to 15 minutes of outdoor activities each day — including Foster Elementary, which is north of Love Field.

But teachers can take play time away as punishment if a student acts up; an entire class can even be disciplined in that manner.

Whatever happened to mandatory recess, anyway? 

"Recess has been pushed back when the reform movement started," said Rena Honea, the preseident of Alliance AFT, the district's largest teachers union. "The major focus was on testing; they wanted students in those classrooms doing reading, writing math."

Students had to cram for standardized tests and had no time to play, she explained.

That became commonplace across the state and country after President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in 2002, which mandated standardized testing.

But next Thursday, on January 28, Solis and fellow board members will consider whether to make recess mandatory again for elementary students — at least 20 minutes daily.

Some teachers have asked questions about their role in its implementation, but no opposition to the proposed new mandate has emerged.

If passed, it would go into effect immediately. But principals would have to decide how to implement the new daily requirement into the daily schedule at each campus.


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