Dallas school board trustee Dan Micciche proposed mandatory recess at least once daily for at least 20 minutes for all pre-K through fifth grade students. The Dallas Morning News enthusiastically endorsed his proposal. 


It’s not just Micciche’s arguments — or our own fond memories of a break from the classroom — that persuade us. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the national Centers for Disease Control are two of many research groups eager to share their documentation supporting how recess improves children’s overall well being and — when the kids return to their seats — enhances learning and focus.
Yet Dallas, not unlike districts nationwide, has allowed academic pressures to trump free time on some campuses. Not only do some schools fail to allot 20 minutes or more of daily recess, which the national pediatrics group recommends, some also withhold it as a punishment for individuals or entire classes.
Micciche isn’t dug in on the 20-minute standard; he recognizes the need for flexibility for different grade levels. But he is right to question whether canceling recess is an appropriate form of discipline for relatively minor infractions.
The administration now will look at the logistics of making daily recess work and come back to trustees in January with a plan. Restructuring schedules and assuring student safety are not small considerations. But it’s important that Superintendent Michael Hinojosa’s team finds ways to make this work — not reasons why it won’t.
The evidence is clear and consistent: Unstructured playtime pays off. It’s worth DISD having a policy in place to assure students get that break.


This is terrific, though not really enough time. If a 20-minute break is good, there should be more than one a day; that’s even better. In Finland, there is a recess after every class. But progress is being made in recognizing that children are not little test-taking machines.


Here is an interview with Dan Micciche about his breakthrough proposal to have a 20-minute recess once a day for elementary aged children. The fact that this sensible proposal is treated as amazing and unprecedented shows how far removed our education system has gone from caring about children and their well-being, and how powerful is our obsession with standardized testing. I am reminded of the slogan of early nineteenth century Lancastrians, whose schools for urban children were tightly disciplined: “Save, save the minutes.” The implication was that not a single minute should be wasted in the classroom. We save the minutes and devote them to test prep, and neglect the health and well-being of little children. Time to save, save the children.