in Houston, Texas
Houston ISD considers whether young students get enough free play time
Monday, Apr 09, 2012, 03:33PM CST
By Mike Cronin

Houston schools officials have strengthened the wording of the administration’s policy proposal urging elementary schools to offer recess.

Houston Independent School District elementary schools should develop schedules that provide for supervised, daily recess,” an agenda item developed by district staff reads. HISD board members are scheduled to vote on the proposal during Thursday night’s monthly meeting.

If approved, the policy would solve a problem that Superintendent Terry Grier shared with trustees last month.

“Some schools just do (physical-education classes) and not recess,” Grier said then.

But the new plan still omits any requirements that would determine the length of daily recess – a detail trustees had asked HISD officials to clarify.

The draft of the policy states that:

  • Recess should not replace physical education. Recess is supervised unstructured playtime where children have choices, develop rules for play, and release energy and stress.”
  • “Recess should not be viewed as a reward or punishment but a necessary educational support component for all children.”
  • “(HISD) should provide the supervision, facilities, and equipment necessary to ensure the recess experience is safe, productive and enjoyable.”

If adopted, the board also would approve a resolution that emphasizes recess “is an essential component of the total educational experience for elementary aged children.”

“Phys-ed is a teacher-led class that follows a curriculum,” Debbie Graves Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency in Austin, told Texas Watchdog last month. An example would be students learning how to play basketball from an instructor, she said.

Recess, however, is student free-play time with no structure, Ratcliffe said.

Texas law requires all elementary schools to offer 30 minutes of “moderate to physical activity” daily throughout the academic year.

Contact Mike Cronin at or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

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Photo of child playing on jungle gym by flickr user qwrrty, used via a Creative Commons license.

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