Saturday, December 16, 2017
Politics

Parents say some kids get school recess and others don't. The numbers back them up.

TALLAHASSEE — For more than a year, whenever a "recess mom" has come to the Florida Capitol and pleaded with lawmakers, they have told stories of their child's lack of access to daily recess — offering anecdotes from their child's school or school district to showcase the inequities of unstructured playtime offered in Florida's public schools.

Informal surveys of parents in some counties, like Pinellas or Miami-Dade, have seemed to support their assertions.

But if lawmakers need official, solid evidence of the disparities in school recess, they need look no further than the findings of their own research analysts.

The Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) last fall surveyed all 67 county school districts about their recess policies and also sought responses from 2,900 public elementary and middle schools.

The results revealed broad inconsistencies in whether school districts and specific schools actually offer daily recess, and if they do, how frequently and for how long.

The data — presented to some senators last week — comes as the Senate Education Committee is poised to vote Tuesday on legislation that would require 20 minutes of daily recess in all Florida public elementary schools, or 100 minutes a week.

Some school districts don't like the legislation, because they say there's not always time in the school day for recess. Reluctance from some lawmakers largely surrounds whether the state should impose the mandate. They have argued the matter should be left to district school boards; however, "recess moms" counter that they've pleaded with their local leaders and, in many cases, those officials have failed to act.

Here's some of what OPPAGA's survey found:

Only 11 of Florida's school districts had some sort of recess policy for the 2015-16 school year: Miami-Dade, Escambia, Gadsden, Wakulla, Nassau, Union, Putnam, Levy, Orange, Charlotte and Lee counties. The other 56 districts — including Broward, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties — might still have offered some type of recess but didn't have board-approved policies.

Of those 11 school districts with policies, only eight actually required — versus simply "encouraged" — elementary school recess but they didn't necessarily require it be provided daily, according to the survey.

How each of those districts defined recess varied. Some, like Miami-Dade and Orange, call it "unstructured free play," what is considered the traditional form of recess. Others, like Escambia, allow both unstructured and "structured" recess, which involves teachers formally directing students in chosen activities for that day.

How many days of the week students got recess also varied. The survey found seven district policies — Escambia, Charlotte, Gadsden, Lee, Levy, Putnam and Union — specified recess five days a week. Other districts' policies might have specified recess for fewer days of the week, if the frequency was specified at all. (As of December, Orange County now also requires daily recess.)

And how much time students got for recess also ranged widely. They could get fewer than 50 minutes a week, as in Miami-Dade, or enjoy more than 200 minutes a week, as in Gadsden, the survey found. (Miami-Dade amended its district policy in August, so some students this year might have longer recess time.)

When it came to the school-level results, OPPAGA heard back from less than a third of the state's public elementary schools, 612 schools out of about 1,900. Some senators thought that was telling.

"The rate of return is incredible with this data, because if you're not offering recess, you might not be bothered," said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.

Among those results, OPPAGA found:

• 83 percent of the 612 schools that responded reported providing recess last school year. Most of them said they included at least some "unstructured free play" in their recess activities, but fewer than half — 278 schools — offered only "unstructured free play."

• In 75 percent of the schools that responded, the frequency and length of recess was consistent across all grade levels in the school (and 45 percent of the responding schools said they provided recess daily). But 13 percent of schools left frequency and length of recess up to the teacher, and 12 percent reported varying practices across different grades.

• About two-thirds of the 457 schools that reported providing consistent recess said they offered recess for fewer than 100 minutes a week.

Here is OPPAGA's presentation in full..

It is a pared down version of a more complete report on school recess the agency issued in November, which is available here.

Contact Kristen M. Clark at [email protected] Follow @ByKristenMClark

Comments
With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Friday secured enough votes to pass the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, putting them on the cusp of their first significant legislative victory this year as party leaders geared up to pass a $1.5 trillion t...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Updated: 9 hours ago
The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

WASHINGTON — As the spooling drama of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s White House departure spun into its 36th hour, Washington began asking itself: "Does it actually matter whether Omarosa quit or was fired?"Dumbest story ever," tweeted John Harwood, the...
Published: 12/15/17
Know your candidates: Florida State House | District 58

Know your candidates: Florida State House | District 58

A hard-fought Republican primary ended with the nomination of Lawrence McClure in October during a whirlwind special election cycle to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who is stepping down for health reasons. The GOP winner faces face three less wel...
Updated: 12 hours ago
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Published: 12/14/17
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Published: 12/14/17
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Published: 12/14/17