Students at schools that use well-structured, organized play during recess were less likely to engage in bullying and exclusionary behavior and showed better behavior and attention in class after recess was over, according to a study of the national Playworks program. The findings have significant ramifications for African-American and Latino students, particularly boys, because they are more likely to attend schools that have eliminated or shortened recess to make more time for standardized test preparation—and they are the ones more likely to have problems with their behavior and attention in class.
The study was conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in conjunction with Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities (JGC) at Stanford University, which examined 25 schools in five cities across the U.S. that either use the Playworks model or haven’t started it yet. The researchers found measurable differences between the students who were in the Playworks schools and those who weren’t.
The Playworks program places full-time coaches in low-income schools to provide opportunities for organized play during recess and throughout the school day, in order to engage students in physical activity, foster social skills related to cooperation and conflict resolution, improve students’ ability to focus on class work, decrease behavioral problems and improve school climate. The program is currently being used in 23 cities across the country.
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According to the report, recess has been eliminated or reduced in 40 percent of the school districts in the United States, “disproportionately affecting low-income minority students in urban areas.” Even in schools that still have recess, most of the play time is not organized or structures.