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Syracuse District Struggles to Find Recess Time

From guest blogger Kimberly Shannon

Syracuse elementary schools have had trouble finding time for recess this school year after the district rolled out a new curriculum aligned to the common core, according to a recent report on News Channel 9.

"If [schools] are going to opt to do recess, they are going to be taking time from [English-language arts] and math, and that's a choice I hope every teacher considers very carefully," Chief Academic Officer Laura Kelley said, according to The Post-Standard.

The district has some of the lowest achievement rankings in the state, and News Channel 9 reported officials there are feeling pressure to improve reading and math scores. This year, each school was instructed to build master schedules that would block out times for each of the core subjects.

Although some news reports have implied that the entire Syracuse City Schools district would be getting rid of recess, district officials say school leaders decide.

"Recess was never a districtwide decision, or something that was eliminated districtwide," Communications Coordinator Michael Henesey said in a phone interview.

Several news outlets report that it is being reduced in some schools in the district. A newsletter went out to some Meachem Elementary School parents on the first day of school telling them that recess would be cut this year, according to YNN. However, at a PTO meeting, Principal Melissa Evans seemed to contradict those reports, telling concerned parents, "I'm telling you, and I'll say it again, we will have recess here at Meachem for every grade level every day."

Many parents were concerned about the threat of no recess at Meachem. Todd Doss, the father of two Meachem students and vice president of the school parent-teacher group, planned to organize an emergency meeting to talk with parents district-wide in early September, according to News Channel 9, and 4th grader Anthony Ponto Jr. started a petition to keep recess, The Post-Standard reports.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children touts the physical, cognitive, socio-emotional, and academic benefits of recess in a policy brief. The Washington-based organization has expressed concerns that education policies of the past decade that have focused on the need for more instructional time have threatened time for recess.

Additionally, a 2010 national poll of elementary school principals on the subject finds that most of them believe recess helps children learn. According to 2008 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 7 percent to 10 percent of schools have no recess at all in particular grades. Additionally, the amount of recess time has been found to vary by socioeconomic status. Nearly 11 percent of black kindergarteners and 8.7 percent of Hispanic kindergarteners have no recess, while the same is true of only 1.8 percent of white kindergarteners, according to research in Arizona State University's Education Policy Analysis Archives. The Chicago district recently reinstated recess after years of not having it.

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