Academic Bullies and The WASL

Time for four square, dodge ball, basketball, freeze tag, jump rope, hop scotch, hacky sack, climbing the jungle gym, or just romping around with friends is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to school recess. There has been a significant rush among schools for more academics that is sweeping the nation. In a article written in the Seattle Times (Recess: time well spent, or time for a change?), 40% of elementary schools according to the national Parent Teacher Association (PTA) have either chose to scratch recess off the curriculum list or are considering doing away with it. Representative John McCoy, D – Tulalip. McCoy is reintroduce Bill 1188 that would require most kindergarten through high school to provide at least an hour of unstructured play. Public school programs that run less than three hours per day fall under a half hour requirement.

The counter measure Bill backed and supported by the Parent Teacher Association is pitching for Senate Bill 6042, which requires schools to allot time to recess on the same scale as any other period during the school day. I suppose this depends on how long the actual subject periods last. For example, will a 35-minute period of recess be adequate for a squirmy six or seven year old for a whole day of school?

Much of the pressure for eradicating or chiseling away at recess time has been a shift towards additional academics. And much of the threat is a result of demand for schools to be assessed in accordance to how well their pupils perform on standardized tests. Schools in Washington deal with the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), a whopper of a test that began under serving millions of kids since at least 1993, but not without discomforting side effects. For high schools the drop out raise has been on the rise leaving many not to graduate as an outcome of low tests scores on the WASL. Wiki cites that “only 34% in 2003 and 39% (about 48,000 students) in 2004 passed all sections of the WASL.” The immensity of attention on the WASL has caused schools, students, teachers, and parents to loose sight of what quality education means. Amounted pressure to prep for the WASL has schools scrambling to reduce recess, sometime from two recesses to one, or from three to two.

School administrations and teachers continually face mounted pressure as they deal with state mandated protocol to increase test scores that unfortunately equate to the sort of funding they will receive. The higher the standardized tests scores, the more resources and materials the school in return receives. As a result poorly funded schools fall into the ghettoized track, never able to spring forward because of low testing scores and the lack of supportive resources to break the mold. Schools that do not make the cut or the quota become delinquents, just bottom feeders in the food chain. As a result, academics relating to standardized testing become the core of the curriculum, and real life practical skills and recess, go out the window.

Mandatory legislative assessment based testing along with a continual onslaught for pushing academics at an unprecedented rate derails students from staying on track with their education, instead leaving many behind.

How do test pushers expect students to perform if subjected to taking long hourly tests when they can’t get their wiggles or restless behavior out on the play yard or in the gymnasium? Obviously time for recess is developmentally appropriate for gaining exercise, but there must be more to the value of having this time.

Recess or any uninterrupted, unstructured, playtime, free of adult expectations is a time for kids to engage with one another without the constructs of the classroom. This is a time during school that supposed to be comforting for adults and the kids – a casual time to mingle within the school community. And this is a period where the ideal of socialization can occur without interruptions, without expectancies to perform academic duties, and where kids can invent their own lessons and games on the play yard. Students enrolled in schools that leans more formal in instruction, may be heavy with bureaucracy and other merit systems – the recess time can be sanctity for kids.

But when can we do to regain their right to have adequate time for recess? Students, teachers, and parents can be active in combating the WASL either through signing a document to opt. out which is provided online by typing in Students Against The Wasl on the search engine , which certainly won’t get anyone on the teacher’s favorite pet list. Part of the mission of Students Against the WASL is: “To ensure the adequate, thorough education of all children, no matter sex, race, creed, or monetary status, nationwide. To review schools and provide an information network for parents, students, the community, and others, and to provide suggestions for schools in order that they might improve their standing.”

Another informative site is: Mothers Against WASL. In big bold letters a few lines down on the site it reads: The Test STOPS Here! And to take further action at the Mothers Against Wasl site you can send an easy to fill out form to the governor and customize a letter to local legislature.

Both the Bills 1188 and 6042, however share some common goals, but seem shrouded in rhetoric, leaving it quite ambiguous to the public. But, this is for the educated reader to decide. And then there is always the question: Should government be meddling in the affairs of what time children have for unstructured play time or should this important decision be based on a municipal level, within community or ultimately to better serve each unique individual child? Again, this is for parents, students, teachers, and schools to decide.

Decentralizing the academic craze around testing is one method to ease the constraint or exploitation of recess. Besides, recess is not just a regular event to fill in the classroom schedule it has, as much precedence as Reading, Mathematics, Science, and Writing and it deserves to be cherished and protected, for years of life long learning.


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