According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, taking recess out of the school day can have serious consequences in child behavior. (Read the full article at Pediatrics or a shorter overview at Science Daily.) The study of more than 10,000 eight- and nine-year-old students indicated that having just a 15 minutes break from the classroom resulted in better behavior.
The study asserts that, as school districts face additional pressure from No Child Left Behind to add more and more time for reading and math, they may be removing an important tool for helping kids stay focused and on task. Removing recess, a great time to release energy, socialize with peers and generally explore the world is correlated with increased negative behaviors during instructional time. The researchers also found that eliminating recess was a more common practice in schools that serve children who are black, come from lower-income homes and live in urban areas.
Of course, several other issues can be related to a lack of recess: obesity, social skill development, perceived safety in school environments… Whatever your perspective on those issues, with our newest State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, talking a great deal about student behavior, this may be an important factor to consider.