Did you know that underperforming schools have less free time? It’s called, “The Play Penalty”.
When Children Can’t Play
I teach 7th grade English in South Los Angeles. As I write this, I can tell you that my brain is overloaded. It is March 2023. We started spring semester on January 9th this year. Our calendar is jam-packed with testing.
The author writes, “New data shows that as household income increases, so do activity levels. Children from homes with income under $35,000 a year play far less as they are unable to access the resources they need to be active and healthy.”
It is an article I have thought about for a while. After reading the article, I spent time looking at our middle school schedule and the inequity in our school.
- January 9th through January 20th: District mandated ELA STAR preparation
- January 10th-January 19th: Math STAR Testing
- January 20th- January 31st: ELA STAR Testing
- February 1st- February 10th: Math IAB Testing
- February 11th- February 23rd: ELA IAB Testing
- February 25th- March 22nd: ELPAC Testing (40% of our students need to reclassify)
- March 23rd- March 30th: ELPAC Makeup Testing
- Spring Break
- April: SBAC Preparation
- May 1st- May 10th: Math SBAC
- May 11th- May 20th: ELA SBAC
- May 20th- May 28th: Math STAR
- May 29th- June 5th: ELA STAR
- The 8th graders are also taking the History SBAC this year. English classes are also supposed to be reading a novel during this time. There is no down time. EVER.
Kids need to have play incorporated into their daily lives.
Our School Does Not Have Recess
Let me repeat, no recess. Instead, students have 5 minutes between passing periods to meet with friends and enjoy down time. It creates a situation where students MUST go to the bathroom during class. Students linger in the hallways, and students are habitually late to class.
Students Have No Down Time
I use multimedia, play games, and try to have students moving around, but many teachers stand at the podium and lecture.
It is not because they are bad teachers but because there is so much pressure to make sure our underperforming schools perform better that teachers fall back on what they learned in school.
Let Them Relax and They Will Perform
It almost seems counterintuitive to allow kids to relax if you want them to perform better, but allowing kids time to relax and play together creates a community. The bond between students and teachers is invaluable for things like testing.
When we have time to build community and relationships with students, they will repay us with their loyalty and test well for us. Middle school students do not understand how testing benefits them, so they try for their adults. School should not only be about performance.
Schools should be able to teach students necessary skills while also allowing them time to develop socially.
A Negative Loop
Our lowest performing schools are in a dangerous negative loop. Schools are underperforming and being given more work, then performing worse and given more.
Students are tired of having work thrown at them, and rebel more frequently. There are at least 30 students going to the bathroom each period because they need to walk around.
We need to stop and reset. The over-testing, lack of breaks, and forced stints of prolonged concentration, are not helping students in these underserved communities.
Let kids play.
Let them enjoy their childhood a little longer, and I know they will be better for it. We will all be better for it.