Comments about ‘Why has U.S. academic success dropped? The answer may be on the playground’

Return to article »

Published: Sunday, Aug. 10 2014 6:10 a.m. MDT

  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended
Chuck E. Racer
Lehi, UT

This article is absolutely true, as I have seen over my 32 years of teaching elementary school. NCLB and Common Core are decimating recess, P.E., History, and the arts in education. We would be better off going back to the education of the 80's.


Yes! A thousand times yes! My wife has ADD. My 6y.o. son exhibits classic symptoms of ADHD, but as he was only six during kindergarten we could not have him officially tested or force the teacher to provide the accomidations he needed. As a result, on the days he was the most fidgety and movement prone, she would hold him in from recess - the one chance he had to work out some of his extra energy! And she would be completely exasperated by his worsening behavior at the end of the day. I am terrified that my very bright little boy is going to quickly begin hating school and then learning, and that is something that should never happen.

South Salt Lake, UT

This article is very consistent with my extensive research about the most effecting learning skills and strategies for my "Own Best Teacher" program. Increasing the "rigor of education standards" does nothing to ensure students will learn. In fact, teaching to the test, which both NCLB and CC instigate, actually harms the learning process as it throws the child into academic challenges they have not been prepared to absorb. Fear, anxiety, and a host of other symptoms block the ability of the child to learn effectively. Play and exercise are both important elements in developing healthy and balanced individuals who can learn more efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, centralized control over education, which ignores these facts, has been increasing. Teacher and parental control over the child's education have increasingly been compromised and stripped away. If we want our children to be successful, we need to reverse directions. We need to give our children better tools and strategies to have a happy and fulfilled life, including appropriate opportunities for play and exercise.


Makes sense to me. If a school block is about 6 hours long with 15 minute breaks near the end of each hour, the kids by the end of the day have about an hour and a half of some kind of exercise. Let the kids play. Gives the teachers a chance to reset for the next hour, too. In the end, it's good for everybody.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

We need to emulate Finland in regards to education in every way imaginable. End of story...

Sandy, UT

Let ME be clear. First, kids do need breaks. Adults need breaks, kids need them even more. I agree that the elementary school day is too full of academics. When I was a principal, I even had primary grade teachers who cut out morning or afternoon recess so they could get in more reading or math time. I fought it then, I will continue to fight it how. I also agree that NCLB put unrealistic expectations on both teachers and students and led to a great deal of teaching to the test. That kind of teaching still exists. However, Common Core does NOT instigate teaching to the test. Common Core is a set of standards. Nothing more, nothing less. It is the high stakes that are placed on test results by legislative efforts like NCLB and grading schools that lead to teaching to the test. Blame legislators for that, not the standards.

Salt Lake City, Utah

But Howard if we used the Finnish system and empowered teachers to teach, what the Utah State legislature have to focus on for 45 days if they couldn't micromanage education?

Logan, UT

@ Fred44:

Before you start criticizing the state legislature for how they are handling education within Utah, please keep in mind that just this week it was announced that Utah students recently tested highest in the nation for ACT scores. And what's even more impressive is that that was accomplished with a spending-per-pupil budget that is below the national average.
Kudos to everyone involved for obtaining such impressive results.

Saint George, UT


Great. The kids can pass a test. But they have no critical thinking skills; no problem solving skills; and no cooperative team building skills-all things for which employers are clamoring. The playground isn't the only place those skills can be learned, but it's a better place than a classroom micromanaged by legislators whose only concern is the next election cycle.

Vernal, UT

It may look like a losing battle in fighting the big government but don't quit making your voices heard and then do fun things with your kids at home. Don't let them sit at home daily, watching TV or playing computer games.

Nan BW
ELder, CO

When I taught school, way back in the last century, we insisted that the children have recess. Some tried to "stay in" and there are times this is necessary, but not for academic purposes. Teaching children to think is also essential, and often this is achieved with various activities that don't appear to be academics. Parents who give their children opportunities to plan and cook meals, make furniture, help budget, write stories and letters, and other diversions to numerous to mention are giving children a huge boost. Teachers can do these activities too, but much of learning should happen at home.

Long Lost America
Salt Lake City, UT

"Whole Child" is another phrase we see has been abused by politically corrupt forces of education reform PR, similar to phrases such as "Do it for the children."
A true representation of the whole child debate would not question the importance of developing the whole child, including things like adequate instruction in things like music and industrial arts.
The way this phrase is being stigmatized in this article without any explanation as to why it is bad is very dangerous.

Long Lost America
Salt Lake City, UT

Be careful of articles that try to mix 99% fact with a subtle hidden political agenda that may actually stigmatize the concept that children need a variety of activities to address all areas of the brain - YES, including play and recess - that throw out false alarms against anything other than basic core academics. One example being a very influential state senator who is preaching the virtues of a school district that replaced their home economics and industrial arts facilities with a computer lab, and praising the virtues of reinventing facilities of those subjects "kids don't want to take anyway."
There are always extreme interpretations which are politically misused from this type of article which actually can do more harm than good

Paul in MD
Montgomery Village, MD

I was raised in the 60s and 70s. Elementary school had some recess. High school was 8 periods a day, 41 minutes long each, with 6 minutes between class to get to the next class. We started as early as 7:10. Graduation rate was high, and most kids went to college.

I read a study in college that said study should be done in 50 minute blocks with 10 minute breaks between. I found I was most successful studying when I applied this.

Kids are being short-changed by the emphasis on eliminating everything not directly testable. Activities like art, music, PE and recess are immensely valuable, not only giving young children outlets to "get the wiggles out" but giving their minds a break in order to refresh and refocus.

Our middle school assigns kids to 8 classes, but they attend them 4 classes a day, about 90 minutes per class. It's too long and very stressful. Two of my kids have had very difficult experiences with this schedule, while thriving in other schedules.

It's time to put education decisions back in the hands of people with kids' best interests at heart, not their own.

Layton, UT

Not all children are the same. Some require a lot of breaks, others can concentrate and want concentrated focus on learning for longer periods of time. Unfortunately one major problem our schools have is that they require the same for everyone. I would prefer to see recesses be tailored to the child's interest and those that want free and open social play be given that, while others who want something more structured and less dependent upon social engagement be given a more focused break or team activity. But that's silly dreaming.

Also... the common core is just a set of education standards, how a school implements or teaches to those standards is entirely up to the states and local boards to determine. If you can't teach to the Common Core standards your school has a lot of problems that won't be solved by any amount of recess breaks.

It doesn't matter if you like them or not, the rest of the world is teaching to standards much more rigorous. The only edge any of us have in this society is our ability to innovate, learn and apply that learning.

Newport Beach, CA

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

The United States public education system is based on the Prussian model of turning out obedient subjects. The trend towards longer, more intensive kindergarten, early-starting days, and longer hours, for whatever marginal benefit it ekes out in added instructional time, loses far more by teaching students to hate school and learning.

Ease students into it. Boil the frog slowly.

Bill McGee
Alpine, UT

Imagine, using science as a basis for the decisions we make about things like education! Yes, kids need regular breaks. The science is clear that these kids do better. Likewise for a later starting time for high school. School districts that have moved high school start times from 7:30 to 8:30 or 9:00 have seen dramatic jumps in attendance, drops in discipline problems and depression, better grades, fewer automobile accidents, and an average of ~50 points increase in SAT scores.

Syracuse, UT

I don't know. High ACT scores only indicate that children can test well. Some very smart educated people do not test well. What about other aspects of development and learning such as creativity, problem solving, group interaction, etc. Some things you can't teach in a classroom, but need to be learned by children interacting in a variety of positive ways with other children, their peers, outside a classroom. High ACT scores are great, but not the whole picture.

Virginia Beach, VA

The Finnish school system is one of the best, if not THE best in the world.

In 2010, Newsweek Magazine came out with its list of the best countries in the world, and Finland topped the list . . . And it wasn't because of its ridiculously cold winters.

It was basically because of its government, hated by American "Conservatives" because of demanding taxes, but one that yielded top results in education, health, housing, and quality of life for the citizens of Finland.

When the poorest of the poor in Finland have better educational opportunities, health care, and a better life all around then upper middle class Americans, it makes sense to identify best practices there and emulate them.

That's going to be a HARD SELL in "Conservative" states though . . . Because as Anne Coulter insists, American exceptionalism should be treasured . . .

Compared to Finland though, Americans are exceptionally badly educated and have an exceptionally poor quality of life for being such a rich nation.

But that's just fine with American "Conservatives," because American exceptionalism is the be all and end all.

Virginia Beach, VA

Hey Howard Beal -

"We need to emulate Finland in regards to education in every way imaginable. End of story..."

But Finland is a socialist country.

It's superlative educational system requires high taxes . . . And real, red-blooded, Rush-Limbaugh-worshiping American "Conservatives" will NOT stand for that.

to comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.
About comments