Letters to the Editor

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EDUCATION: No room to tighten school days

Letter by Jennifer Boutell, Tacoma on Nov. 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm with 3 Comments »
November 21, 2011 2:01 pm

The editorial, “Tighter school days might offset shorter school year” (TNT, 11-17), missed the mark on several levels.

Contrary to the assertion that our students spend an “enormous amount of time” on transitions and breaks, Tacoma students are allotted only 30 minutes to line up for lunch, wait in line, pay for their food and eat their meal. In many schools, children routinely end up with just 10 minutes or less to actually consume their food.

In our middle schools, children have only four minutes between classes, and in our high schools only five. District policy requires two 15-minute recess breaks per day for elementary students, the same amount of break time allotted adult workers.

The editorial further makes the generalization that students in more academically successful countries receive less time for breaks and non-core subjects. This is simply incorrect.

In Finnish schools (which ranked second in the world on the globally recognized PISA tests in 2010) students enjoy 75 minutes of recess time per day, and mandated arts and crafts instruction. In New Zealand and Australia (which rank fourth and sixth, respecitively), children have at least one hour of break time in their day. In fifth-ranked Japan, children enjoy an hour-long meal in their classroom, served by their peers.

These global examples, as well as recent research conducted within the United States, show the long-term benefits of healthy break time and well-rounded curriculum for our schoolchildren.

Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. David1964 says:

    Just want to point out that in Tacoma SD there is no mandate for recess time, other than the lunch period. If an individual school has additional recess time for their students, it is something that they’ve worked out their own. In most cases, the teachers are supervising their own students or sharing the duty with other classroom teachers.

  2. Hi David,

    There actually is a firm policy on recess. Policy 2146 from the district’s policy manual states, in part:

    A break from the daily routine contributes to alertness in people of all ages, particularly young children. Providing respite is highly compatible with brain research and attention span in children. Analysis of research findings also consistently concludes that physical activity supports learning


    Therefore, it shall be the policy of Board of Directors that every elementary child will, to every extent appropriate, have a daily opportunity for recess in addition to the daily lunch/recess

  3. …and if that is not happening in your school, it should be worked out with the principal or possibly brought to the district’s attention if you don’t get any traction.

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