Hit the Playground: Dallas ISD Board Votes for Mandatory Recess, Expanded Pre-K

Photo by Bethany Erickson

Photo: Bethany Erickson

“I get 15 minutes of recess, now I want 100 minutes,” an adorable student told Dallas Independent Schools trustees last night as several of her peers also stood up to talk about how recess would help their school day.

Dallas ISD Trustee Dan Micciche took up the cause last month, and while students didn’t get 100 minutes last night, trustees did vote (7 for, 1 abstaining) to require 20 minutes of recess for the rest of this year, and 30 minutes beginning in the next school year. 

Recess cannot be taken away as a punishment for minor infractions, and it cannot include physical education classes.

But recess wasn’t the only item in the board’s consent agenda that people were waiting anxiously on — an expansion of the district’s Pre-K program was also passed.

The measure, which was proposed by trustee Miguel Solis last month, includes language to create a comprehensive early childhood education policy for the district. Solis wrote at length last month about the need for such a policy, saying, “we do not have one local policy addressing our strategy. NOT ONE for the second largest district in Texas and top 15 in the nation.”

How important is this? I’ll have more about the economic ramifications of early childhood education next week, but I can tell you what I’ve seen with my own eyes — children who live in homes where income insecurity exists likely hear fewer words, own fewer books, and are generally less prepared for kindergarten. They start out behind, and end up struggling to keep up (or even close) by second grade. And while the oft-repeated “statistic” that kids who can’t read by third grade end up in prison later (or some variation of that) has been proven to be largely untrue, it is true that a student not reading at grade level by the end of the third grade is four times less likely to graduate high school on time. And a 2009 study found that high school dropouts were 63 times more likely to end up in prison.

“Simply put, study after study shows that if we get it right by 3rd grade, our children are MUCH more likely to succeed and we seem to be getting it right due to this plan,” Solis wrote. “High quality early childhood education is not a silver bullet, but I have no problem calling it brass.”

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