When I was a child in Houston many, many moons ago, my public school had recess every day. It was unstructured play, and it was an integral part of the school day, like art, reading, writing, math, and music. We took tests that our teachers wrote and graded, but no standardized tests. That was long ago.

Twenty years ago, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind act based on the belief that standardized testing had produced a ”Texas miracle” that was raising test scores and closing achievement gaps. There actually was no Texas miracle, but the law was passed, requiring that every child must take tests in reading and math every year and promising that every child would score ”proficient” by 2014. Every child was tested every year, and every child continues to be tested every year, but universal proficiency is nowhere to be found. Sadly, failure has not daunted the belief systems of those who value standardized testing.

In the relentless drive for higher test scores, states invested billions of dollars in test prep, interim assessments, and data-driven accountability. Testing took up not only money but time. Some districts eliminated the arts. Many eliminated recess.

Now, it seems, it requires a state law to restore what should never have been taken away from children: the right to play.

Does your school have recess? In Illinois, parents activists pressed for a law guaranteeing The Right to Play. They won.

The state of Illinois passed The Right to Play act this year.

The law resulted from the strong advocacy work of Illinois Families for Public Schools.


“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” –Fred Rogers

With the passage of SB654, the Right to Play Every Day bill, an initiative of IL Families for Public Schools, all students in kindergarten through 5th grade in IL public schools must have 30 minutes of daily play time. Time must be in increments of at least 15 minutes and can’t be taken away for punishment.

Play is fundamental to the human experience. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 190 nations, recognizes play as a basic right for children.

Play is a crucial component of education and development, enhancing a child’s social, physical and emotional health along with academic achievement and abilities. Play is learning.





Pasi Sahlberg, William Doyle, and other researchers: Thank you for defending the rights of children!