April 28, 2010

Play Haters! A Vermont middle school kills recess

Play haterIt will be all work and no play for students in Rutland, Vermont. In the hopes of boosting test scores, Rutland Middle School has just announced a dubious schedule change. If school administrators really want their kids to achieve academically, they are going to have to be smarter than this.

The play haters:
Rutland Middle School principal Wil Cunningham and the Rutland School Board

How they’re endangering play:
The school is lengthening class time next year—and canceling a 10-minute recess to compensate. According to the Rutland Herald , the only formal break students will get is a shortened “lunch and recess” period of 22 minutes. Gee, how generous.

The back story:
In 2009, Rutland Middle School failed to meet certain academic requirements for its free/reduced-lunch students, pushing it into a second year of corrective action. School administrators had to present a new strategy for meeting these requirements to the state education commissioner, Armando Vilaseca—though he didn’t ask them to kill recess, as far as we know.

Why we’re distressed:
We give Rutland Middle School a D for its dumb proposal. Apparently, school administrators and board members haven’t been paying attention to all the research showing that kids need play time and physical activity to stimulate their brains.

A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, for instance, says that “overwhelmingly, principals [have] reported that recess has a strong positive impact on academic achievement.” Howell Wechsler, director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees. “A lot of studies... show that more time for P.E. and other physical activity help improve academic performance," he says. Here at KaBOOM!, we support academic achievement, and that’s why we support daily recess.

Notable quote:
“This is what’s best for Rutland Middle School at this time.” – John Beerworth, the school’s… wait a second… physical education teacher??

What you can do:
Help save play in Vermont! Join our online petition to contact Principal Wil Cunningham and tell him to restore recess at his middle school.

Is anyone in your community endangering play? Help us find our next play hater! Email your tips to playhaters@kaboom.org

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