It’s More Than Just Recess

September 15, 2008

By Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive Director

It is amazing how an issue as simple as recess for students is really a part of a complex and serious issue facing our country — the growing disparities in our society.  I really appreciated Rosalind Rossi’s story in the Chicago Sun-Times which highlights the disparities that exist in the opportunity for students to have recess.  Ms. Rossi found that schools which serve more affluent students are more likely to offer their students recess and other breaks from academic subjects (physical education and fine art) than schools which serve low-income areas. 

The results of
Ms. Rossi’s unscientific survey are confirmed by the National School Board
Association’s Center for Public Education in their report “Time Out: Is Recess
in Danger?”
.  The report finds that overall “reports of recess’s death
seem to have been grossly exaggerated, however children who attend
high-minority, high-poverty or urban schools are far more likely than other
children to get no recess at all.”

It is not surprising then that students with less opportunity for physical activity and/or other enrichment programs perform less well than their more affluent counterparts.  In addition, minority students in Chicago tend to experience much higher rates of obesity that their white counterparts, reducing their chances for good health in latter years.

I am not suggesting that recess is the only factor at play.  It is just part of a complicated set of social, political and economic factors that seems to make it harder and harder for some children to get two things—a good education and the opportunity to be healthy. Taking away the opportunity for these two things makes it very unlikely that these children will have the opportunity for a healthy and productive life. It is our responsibility to address these inequities before another generation of children is lost.