No-Recess Policies Being Implemented in U.S. School Districts

  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
You may use the stars on the left to rate and leave feedback for the current article. No registration is required. Waiting for 5 votes 3.9 of 5 stars (13 votes) — Thanks for your vote

Please fill out the following optional information before submitting your rating:

A trend seems to be affecting school districts in the United States-many are beginning to implement "no recess" policies under the belief that "recess is a waste of time that would be better spent on academics" (Johnson, 1998, p. A1). This belief is being fueled by increased pressures on school districts to show improved academic gains when compared to schools around the globe. In addition, administrators cite a "fear of lawsuits if children become injured, a concern over children's safety from strangers around school grounds, and a shortage of people to supervise the children during recess" (Johnson, 1998, p. A1).

School districts in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, New Jersey, and Connecticut are opting to eliminate recess, even to the point of building new schools in their districts without playgrounds. According to Benjamin O. Canada, the superintendent of Atlanta schools, "We are intent on improving academic performance and you don't do that by having kids hang on monkey bars" (Johnson, 1998, p. A1).

In contrast to these views, child development researchers cite many benefits of having a recess time during the school day. According to Dr. Tony Pellegrini, a professor of child development at the University of Georgia, "Every study shows that children are more attentive after recess" (Johnson, 1998, p. A16). Pellegrini adds that not having a recess during the school day is almost inhumane because children are being kept confined in their classrooms for hours each day. Prolonged periods of confinement in elementary classrooms have been found to lead to increased fidgeting, restlessness, and subsequent inability to concentrate (Pellegrini & Davis, 1993).

Recess has also been found to be important for aspects of children's development. According to Pellegrini and Glickman (1989), "recess is one of the few times during the day when children are free to exhibit a wide range of social competencies such as sharing, cooperation, negative and passive language in a context they see meaningful" (p. 24). These skills are then transferred to the classroom and beyond. For example, a common playground game, "chase," has been linked to academic success. According to Pellegrini and Glickman, "Children learn to cooperate to the extent that the play requires cooperation and they learn to solve problems in such forms of play. They realize that in order to sustain their chase play with peers, they must take turns being the chaser or the chased. If they refuse to change roles, the game ends. This reciprocating role is a powerful predictor of the ability to cooperate and view events from different perspectives" (p. 24).

Dr. Olga Jarrett, professor of child development at Georgia State University, wonders about the opportunity for such learning and for interacting with other children without recess. "Many children today go home after school and sit in front of the television rather than play outside" (Johnson, 1998, p. A16). According to the Children's Defense Fund (1998), nearly 5 million children are home alone after school. Jarrett points out that "when children are used to playing together, they figure out a way to handle differences. But, these days, children are increasingly looking for an adult to settle disputes. Their sense of independence is being lost in the heavily structured world of childhood" (Johnson, 1998, p. A16).

Finally, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) released its physical activity guidelines for pre-adolescent children in May 1998. According to the NASPE guidelines:

* Children need at least 60 minutes of developmentally appropriate physical activity.

* Children should experience a variety of activities of various levels of intensity. These activities should be intermittent, alternating moderate to vigorous activity with brief periods of rest and recovery.

* Extended periods of inactivity are not developmentally appropriate for children.

These guidelines are based on the concept that children have unique characteristics which differ from adults, including shorter attention spans and a need for a wide variety of experiences for learning ("NASPE releases," 1998). As a society who is concerned about the health risks of obesity, it is also important to note that children will likely learn to be inactive as adults if they are not provided with opportunities to be active when they are young. The "no recess" policies being implemented in various parts of the country seem to be contrary to the physical and learning need of elementary school children.

It may be helpful for adults to step back and reflect on the break periods which are an important part of our day. Just as judges and lawyers take a recess during court sessions and office workers take breaks during the day to relax and recharge, children also need a time for recess. This may mean that educators and parents will need to reexamine the valuable experiences that take place outside of the classroom and compromise between what is developmentally and academically important for children.

For more information:

Appropriate Physical Activity for Elementary School Children: Executive Summary from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education

Developmentally Appropriate Programming For School-Age Children from the National Network for Child Care

School Recess and Playground Behavior: Educational and Developmental Roles by Anthony D. Pellegrini

Recess and Social Development by Dr. Tom Jambor


Johnson, Dirk. (1998, April 7). Many schools putting an end to child's play. New York Times, p. A1, A16.

NASPE releases first ever physical activity guidelines for pre-adolescent children.

Pellegrini, Anthony, & Davis, P. (1993). Relations between children's playground and classroom behavior. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 63, 88-95.

Pellegrini, Anthony, & Glickman, Carl. (1989). The educational role of recess. Principal, 68(5), 23-24.
Related Topics
Visitor Comments (2)
Adding your comments contributes to the adoption community. Please keep all comments on topic and civil. Visitors are invited to comment and vote for or flag comments based on appropriateness and helpfulness. All comments must adhere to our commenting rules and are subject to moderation.
Annie - 4 years ago
0 0 1
I do not agree with no recess. As a parent of nine kids now. I believe that recess is a great thing for our children. They also need that exercise for the energy they have and for helping with obesity. If these states look at what the state of Iowa is doing for their education system and the testing that these children taken, it may help your education system and allow the kids to have the recess time that they need each day. Teachers and parents are a big help with caring for these children and how each child learns. The extra help for these children is very important. If they are not getting this help they could fall back even more then they are now. Homework club is a great idea or having tutors to help. I believe that there are other ways to get the test scores up with out having to cut the recess for these kids. #1
Luci - 4 years ago
0 0 0
As a preschool teacher, I find no recess to be almost insane! Many of hte overweight teachers in my school do not want to go outside, so they think of themselves instead of the students #2

To see local Adoption resources, please select a location (U.S. only):

Need a Home Study?
Adoption Photolisting
Malik (FL / 16 / M)
Have you ever dreamed of being a coach? For Malik, you could be even more! Malik is a smart and active teen who'd like to be part of an active, sports-loving family. He'd love to... [more]
Parent Profiles
Married, financially stable, loving teachers can provide the very best loving home for your baby. We can't wait to hear from you! Call or text us at 631-807-1531. [more]
Directory of Adoption Professionals
Find a professional
for all of your adoption needs including:

Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of

Settings Help Feedback
Template Settings
Width: 1024     1280
Choose a Location:
Choose a Theme: