Today's ProJo reports that East Providence is banning recess, as defined by 10-15 minutes of aide-supervised post-lunch running around, in favor of optional in-class breaks and additional formal physical education opportunities. All well-intentioned, and now East Providence is now meeting Rhode Island's basic education plan requirements for physical education. Kids have more time to eat lunch, too, which is all to the good in my book--if that time sitting were followed by time running (and yes, sometimes falling, an event that the head of the East Providence School Committee, paraphrased in the ProJo article) is eager for children to avoid, along with recess' potential for fights and hurt feelings).
But formal physical education is not the same as unstructured time, which children (and adults) need during the day. Increasing the opportunities for formal physical education means increasing opportunities to supervise, evaluate, and control kids. Eliminating time for kids simply to be and interact, without judgment or structure or expectations during an otherwise highly regulated school day means that the joys (and sorrows) of play are now subject to the inevitable angst of a grade. There may be good in what's being implemented in East Providence, but the costs are high.