Kit Harris, ASCD Research

ED Pulse Poll Results: Does More Recess Increase Academic Learning?

ASCD continually seeks to provide solutions to the challenges that face educators of all levels. Recently the ASCD SmartBrief ED Pulse poll addressed the debate about recess in elementary schools.

In the rush to meet new standards in math and reading, some school districts across the country have reduced the time for other subjects and for recess. For example, the Washington, D.C., schools started the school year with 15 minutes a day of recess, but after parent protests, the dedicated recess time was inched up to 20 minutes a day. At the same time, D.C. was the first school district in the country to fully commit to First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Active Schools program, which aims to help schools provide at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day for students, either before, during, or after school. In D.C., then, this would leave 40 minutes of daily activity that would be performed presumably in physical education class, or before and after school. As testing requirements and budget cuts take hold, about 40 percent of U.S. elementary schools have reduced or eliminated recess, mostly to make room for more academics, reports USA Today.

There are multiple studies that point to the fact that increased activity and aerobics are related to better learning, memory, and better performance on tests, but school districts across the country are finding more reasons to cut back on recess. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued its first policy statement on the issue of recess, with its medical members strongly supporting increased recess time, reporting that "recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child's development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons."

Clearly, the majority of the 761 ASCD SmartBrief readers who responded to this week's poll share that opinion. Two out of three respondents strongly agreed that more physical education/physical activity time will increase academic learning (63 percent). An additional 18 percent somewhat agreed with the question. In total, more than 80 percent agree that there is a positive correlation between increased physical activity and academics. Interestingly, there are few that are neutral on this topic, with 12 percent who strongly disagree with the sentiment that more physical activity increases academic learning, indicating a degree of polarity on this topic.

This survey question was included in ASCD SmartBrief, a free daily e-mail news service that provides summaries and links to major education stories and issues, which has more than 200,000 subscribers. Using ED Pulse, the weekly online poll, data was collected from 761 readers, starting on September 5, 2013. Online surveys do not provide a random sample, as participants are self-selected, meaning that a margin of sampling error cannot be calculated or quoted. In addition, the population and sample are limited to those with access to computers and an online network. However, online surveys have been shown to produce results that have proven to be reliable predictors of outcomes, including election results. If you have a question on education that you would like to see addressed in a future ED Pulse poll, feel free to submit it in the comment section below, along with any other comments.

Kit Harris is the marketing research lead at ASCD. The quantitative and qualitative research work done is in support of strategic initiatives in marketing, membership, product/program/service development, and conferences/meetings. Harris started her career in Chicago at a marketing research firm, then moved to D.C. to serve as the research director at advertising agency Earle Palmer Brown & Associates. Prior to coming to ASCD, she ran her own research firm.

Comments (1)


October 4, 2013

Outdoors students engage a holistic natural environment which is loaded with prompts for learning. The only question is, will the conventional teacher be willing to put their adult created lesson on hold and instead embrace the questions of a student which were derived from their time outdoors?

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