By: Jennifer Larino, Nola.com/Times-Picayune
The debate over how to best educate American children is often heated and divisive, but nearly everyone seems to agree at least one point — kids need free time to play.
That sentiment came to a boil earlier this month in Jefferson Parish where parents fought to bring back recess after some schools cut it in favor of more instructional time. The Jefferson Parish School Board voted unanimously to reinstate 15-minute daily recess for kindergarten through fifth grade.
A Times-Picayune/Lucid survey shows parents in Jefferson Parish are not the only ones who consider recess a priority.
More than 1,000 people nationwide were asked for their opinion on school recess, including 344 respondents in the New Orleans area and 322 others in Louisiana. The survey platform accounted for age, gender and race and ethnicity to ensure the sample was nationally representative.
The overwhelming majority of respondents — 94 percent — said a recess period is a necessary part of the school day, allowing students to be more productive when in the classroom. That edged up to 96.5 percent among individuals living in the New Orleans area.
Support for recess was roughly equal among parents and non-parents alike. Also, parents who sent their kids to private school were just as likely as public school parents to consider recess essential.
Louisiana does not require schools to include a free-play break for students in their day. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education simply requires elementary and middle schools provide at least 30 minutes of “quality moderate to rigorous physical activity” each day. Gym class counts toward that requirement.
Advocates for recess argue unstructured free time allows kids to interact and pick up vital social skills in addition to burning energy.
How did Lucid get feedback on recess for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune? The company works with a range of partners — from retailers to mobile video games — to find individuals to question. Lucid’s partners invite their users to take surveys in a number of ways, including email invitations and incentives embedded in online games. Participants get rewards such as a gift card or game credit for completing a survey.
Lucid software tracks predetermined quotas for age, gender, and race and ethnicity to make sure the sample is representative.
More than 74 percent of those surveyed listed social skills development as a benefit of recess, more than any other category. Eighty-one percent of New Orleans area residents who participated in the survey saw social skills as the main benefit.
The majority of respondents also said students benefit from recess by being less fidgety. Bullying and the threat of outside strangers were considered the biggest downsides to recess.
Nearly half of respondents felt recess should be between 21 and 30 minutes for elementary school children. Louisiana residents outside New Orleans were more likely to favor shorter recess periods, while nearly 57 percent of New Orleans area residents were good with a 21- to 30-minute break.
The survey revealed a slight difference of opinion on how old a student should be before recess is no longer offered. More than 62 percent of those surveyed said a child needs to be 14 years old or older before recess is no longer offered. About 28 percent felt kids ages 10 to 13 do not need recess.
Survey takers in the New Orleans area were most likely to say recess should be offered until high school. About 69 percent in New Orleans said students 14 years old or older no longer require recess as a part of the school day, compared with 55 percent nationally and 60.5 percent elsewhere in Louisiana.
The survey also asked respondents to mark whether they consider recess as well as certain school subjects part of a well-rounded education for children in first through sixth grades.
More than 85 percent of respondents considered English and science a necessary part of a well-rounded education. That compared with 62 percent of respondents who checked recess as necessary. Math was not listed among options.
Among New Orleans respondents, 86 percent checked English and nearly 67 percent checked recess as important.