TACOMA – Outside of lunch playtime, recess is forbidden, a Tacoma School District official has reminded principals.
“If we want students learning to high standards, we need them in the classroom, not the playground,” Karyn Clarke, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, said this week.
At least 20 of the district’s 36 elementary schools have no breaks except for lunch, The News Tribune of Tacoma found in a survey published Thursday.
But Whittier, the one elementary school determined to have a formal afternoon recess signaled by a bell, led the district in math and writing scores for fourth-graders and ranked second in reading on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.
“If you take it away, all the kids will be grouchy,” pupil Elizabeth Withrow told the newspaper.
At several other schools, several teachers might arrange to have recess at the same time every day, taking turns supervising.
“We just can’t do that,” Clarke said.
A teachers union leader and some parents challenged Clarke’s recent memo, which she said summarized a district position established in 1997.
The district did not immediately respond Thursday to Associated Press requests for a copy of the 1997 rule, and Clarke did not return a call for comment.
Gayle Nakayama, Tacoma teachers union president, and others recall the 1997 recess rule as allowing teachers to schedule daily breaks if they watched children themselves.
“I haven’t seen evidence that getting rid of recess increases learning,” Nakayama said, but there is research suggesting social, physical and emotional benefits of exercise and recess.
The Tacoma Education Association feels the decision on recess should be made by school staff, Nakayama said.
Tacoma’s move echoes similar actions around the country and comes as obesity takes center stage as a U.S. health concern.
Elementary students regularly move from one activity to the next within the classroom and the school, Clarke noted. And they have PE class to address obesity concerns.