House Bill #10 Would Make Recess Mandatory In Delaware Public Schools For Students In K-8

Sometimes a State Representative surprises me.  Today, Delaware State Representative Melanie Smith filed House Bill #10, which would change recess requirements in the State of Delaware for public schools.  Bring the play back to schools!

This Act entitles all students from kindergarten through the 8th grade who are enrolled in a Delaware public school to morning and afternoon recess periods and a lunch period that is at least 30 minutes in length. Morning and afternoon break periods must be at least 10 minutes in length each. Under this Act, students are entitled to morning and afternoon breaks and a lunch period only on a full day of school.                    

Can I get an Amen?  Before everyone starts with the “this should be a local decision”, I feel some bills should make every school district be uniform with certain things in education.  This is one of them.  Let’s get real.  This bill would not come about if our districts and charters were doing this already.  Many of them are, but not all of them.  And not enough.  Children need to play, especially during school.  I wish those recess requirements were longer, but it is a start.  We need to be emulating countries like Finland where recess is just as important as Language Arts or Math.  They also have shorter school days there and are considered to be one of the best countries in the world for education.

The Chair of the House Education Committee announced today there will be one more House Education Committee meeting on Tuesday, June 27th and this bill will be heard in that committee.  I am very happy to see some sanity coming back to public education.  I will take the small steps while they come.  Thank you for this bill Rep. Smith!  I would like it if you could attend the House Education Committee meetings though!

The Resolution That Is A Must-Read For All Teachers, Students, Parents, & Politicians

On Tuesday evening, the Christina School District Board of Education voted 6-0 on a resolution to bring some sanity back to public education.  I love, love, love this resolution!  Christina Board President Elizabeth Paige drafted the resolution and it should become a policy for every single school district and charter school in America!

Christina School District Board of Education Resolution in Support of Unstructured Learning Time

Whereas, the mission of the Christina School District supports fostering a nurturing learning environment; and,

Whereas, unstructured learning time has been proven to enhance a child’s social development and ability to problem solve; and,
Whereas, play improves memory and stimulates brain development; and,

Whereas, play is necessary for ELL students to develop social language that is less formal than academic language; and,

Whereas, play fosters an environment of cooperation and scaffolding of learning among children at different ages/stages and encourages children to connect academic experiences to real-world scenarios; and,

Whereas, research proves that children who are exposed to at least 15 minutes of unstructured play time during the day exhibit better behavior during academic time than children who are not offered a break; and,

Whereas, research published in the Early Childhood Education Journal revealed that both free play and adult-guided play can help young children learn awareness of other people’s feelings and that play helps to teach kids to regulate their own emotions; and,

Whereas, evidence informs us that a lack of ample time for undirected, self-chosen play/activities contributes to mental health problems such as rising rates of stress, anxiety, and depression, and therefore should be treated as an important provision in the scheduling of student time; and,

Whereas, studies show that frequent small breaks are more beneficial to student emotional and physical health as well as academic achievement; therefore,

Be it resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education affirms that play is a positive aspect of being a student in a public school system; and,

Be it further resolved that in all Christina School District elementary schools, unstructured learning time should be provided to all students in varying degrees, but in quantities no less than 20 minutes daily; and,

Be it further resolved that recess shall be supplementary to unstructured learning time inside the classroom; and,
Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education affirms its support for unstructured learning time and recess for students in grades 6-8; and,

Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education supports the fact that appropriate amounts of time for play and/or freely chosen activities are necessary for healthy development and should be provided during the school day; and,

Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education supports the evidence that play increases student abilities in the areas of critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, executive functioning, communication skills, empathy, and self-regulation; and,

Be it ultimately resolved that the Christina School District believes that ample time for student-driven, unstructured play must be included among the essential learning experiences in the education of our students. Beyond physical activity, these experiences include imaginative play, creative/constructive play, and games with rules. Student engagement in undirected, freely chosen activities is an essential component of healthy human development as well as a necessity for social/emotional, physical, and cognitive growth of children.

Ashley Sabo’s Must Read Public Comment To Red Clay’s Board About Kindergarten

Ashley Sabo addressed the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education tonight about a topic that is rising with grave concern to parents and educators all over the country.  Rigor and kindergarten are like oil and water.  They don’t belong together at all.  She should run for public office!

In the essay, “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten” the author writes about how all the things we need to know for living life are learned in kindergarten, not in graduate level classes or adulthood, but in that primary year of our schooling. The things he says we learn are: share everything, play fair, don’t hit, put things back where you found them, clean up your mess, say sorry when you hurt someone, live a balanced life – learn some, think some, draw and paint, sing and dance, and play and work every day.  And wonder, never lose your sense of wonder.

As a parent of a kindergartner I have watched the joy of learning fade from her – a child who once happily grabbed her backpack and headed to the car for school now is reluctant to go and would prefer a nap on the couch despite it being 8:15 in the morning. The joy of learning is fading for the sake of rit and rigor and supposed success, when we’re really losing the success of learned social skills and dynamic imaginative play. 

Our students are no longer taught to live a balanced life with both play and work. Rather they are pushed to the limit each day with more testing and more worksheets and more rigorous academia.  Despite studies that show children who are allowed to play have higher language skills, both receptive and expressive, and better problem solving skills, school leadership continues to add on to the curriculum requirements. 

In addition to language and problem solving skills, learning through play helps children increase cognitive development, increase self-confidence, reduce anxiety, learn basic social development skills such as cooperation, sharing, and conflict resolution – all skills and traits that are necessary and critical to navigating adulthood.

I would wager a guess that a number of you, if not the majority of you, had the old-fashion type of kindergarten that allowed for naps, extra recess, more imaginative play and less seat work – and look at you all, I think you turned out pretty well, after all you are overseeing the education of thousands of children.

I implore you, the school board and district leaders, to reconsider the kindergarten curriculum and the proposed increase of scope and sequence being piloted this year. Our kids deserve to be kids and learn the best way kids do – through play!

Thank you

No, thank you Ashley Sabo for having the heart and the guts to stand before a school board and telling them basic truths.  I joked years ago that Governor Markell would set up a Smarter Balanced In Utero Assessment.  With all the Kindergarten and pre-school push lately, I may not be too far off!  But seriously, Ashley Sabo should run for office.  We need more common sense in Legislative Hall.  And any public comment that quotes Robert Fulghum is great!

Academia Antonia Alonso Submits Modification To Change Location Out Of Community Education Building

Syringe

One of the three Delaware charter schools currently residing in the Community Education Building in Wilmington now wants out.  Academia Antonia Alonso Academy, as of January 29th, submitted a major modification to change their school location from the CEB to the Barley Mill Plaza location currently owned by Odyssey Charter School.  Should their modification gain approval, the plan is to lease one of the buildings from Odyssey.  So why would they want to move from the lauded CEB?

After reviewing options of other potential locations, it was determined that a location that can be conveniently accessed by families, can be managed directly by the school, and also provides green space and playground facilities would be preferable to the current location in enabling the school to deliver the educational outcomes that it is striving to achieve.

Now this is some logic I can get behind!  Looking out for students, recess, and families is crucial to school success nowadays.  It is underestimated by our Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell.

Given that 61% of La Academia’s students live in the City of Wilmington zip codes of 19801, 19802 and 19805, the majority of the school’s students live in neighborhoods where they may be regularly exposed to violence and crime, and where their families do not feel safe having their children play outside. This makes it even more important that the school be able to offer the opportunity for these children to be able to have safe play spaces.  Non-structured play time has a positive impact on social development and general well-being and allows children the opportunity to practice essential social skills, which in turn improves learning and school climate.

Thank you!  While some schools have reduced or gotten rid of recess, this school is actually celebrating it!

Our school has students in grades K-2 who are young and small, and during transitions they have to either navigate 2 to 6 flights of stairs or wait on elevators that require the school to make multiple trips to transport everyone, depending on the location of their next activity. We have had one incident of an elevator full of students getting stuck for over 20 minutes. A second incident occurred with Kuumba Academy students and staff. This has caused some of our students to be afraid of the elevators. Some of our younger students have tripped on the stairs, and now are afraid of using them.

Sounds like a health inspector needs to get in there as soon as possible!

In order to get our students to the outdoor fenced parking lot that is their recess area, our teachers go down the elevators (or six flights of steps), walk down a full city block, cross a dangerous intersection where accidents have happened right in front of our students, down another half of a city block and into the Wilson Street lot. This typically takes 15 minutes. Adding another 15 minutes for the return trip the students lose precious recess time.  Developmentally, it is critical that 5, 6, & 7 year olds are able to have time for recess and play.

Wow!  How much thought went into student safety for this building?

The Wilson Street Parking Lot, our recess area, has a number of issues relating to safety and supervision.  Several areas in the fence are a concern to the school, as well as there being no barrier (mesh fence or other) to prevent students from going behind the storage unit where teachers have no line of sight. This recess area is not fully secure from the public after hours and dangerous items such as broken glass, syringes and other items are routinely found by both teachers and students. There is no typical playground equipment for the students to use such as swings, slides etc.

So what happens if a student accidentally pokes another student or themselves with a syringe?  Who is responsible for the potential of a student getting HIV or some other disease from a dirty needle?  I would get the hell out of this location too!  I’m guessing Governor Markell and Acting US Secretary of Education John King didn’t go out with the kids to recess during King’s visit last month to the Community Education Building…

To see the full major modification request, please see below.  For the next few months, the school will go through the charter school accountability committee and public hearings.  A final decision will be made by the Delaware Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education at their April 21st meeting.

Now the big question becomes which charter school will now submit a major modification request to get into the Community Education Building?  I hope no elementary schools based on what I’m hearing!

 

 

 

148th General Assembly Legislative Session Schedule For 2016

The fun begins again on January 12th, 2016.  This is when the Delaware General Assembly reconvenes for Part 2 of their 148th General Assembly.  It will be a raucous ride this session, with huge budget issues taking the forefront of any discussion.  Followed by education, death penalty, and right to die bills that are pending bills.

The General Assembly typically meets from Tuesdays to Thursdays with rare exceptions out of those days of the week (usually Joint Finance Committee).  The various committees meet during these days as well, but there is no clear schedule for all of them.  Here are the dates:

January 12th, 13th, 14th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 26th, 27th, 28th

February-1st week of March: General Assembly in Recess all month for Joint Finance Committee and Joint Finance Committee/Bond meetings.

Here are the dates for the JFC Hearings:

February 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 25th

And for the JFC/Bond Committee Hearings:

February 29th, March 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 8th

Back in Legislative Session:

March 8th, 9th, 10th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th

In recess for a few weeks, then back for:

April 12th, 13th, 14th, 19th, 20th, 21st

Then more JFC/Bond Hearings:

April 26th, 27th, 28th

Back In Legislative Session:

May 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 17th, 18th, 19th

And then the JFC Mark-Up Session:

May 23rd, 24th, 25th, 31st, June 1st, 2nd

And then the final stretch back in Legislative Session:

June 7th, 8th, 9th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 28th, 29th, 30th, and if need be, the hours going into July 1st if the General Assembly does not pass the budget for Fiscal Year 2017.  The General Assembly is required by law to keep meeting until the budget is passed.

Stand Up For Tourette Syndrome

This is an excellent video about what children with Tourette Syndrome go through in classrooms, the cafeteria, the school bus, and recess.  The key to Tourette Syndrome, along with many other disabilities, is understanding and acceptance and not just with their fellow students but also the staff at school.  Most people don’t make fun of someone in a wheelchair, and many disabilities are no different.  They are disabilities with neurological symptoms, meaning kids with these types of disabilities can’t help it.  They can learn to live with it, and adapt, but society and peers play a large role.  A lack of understanding causes tremendous stress and even a casual throwaway comment about a tic or something a child cannot control can play a big factor in their ability to adapt and accept their own disorder.