Cutting Curriculum for NCLB

Last Updated: November 06, 2008

This article appeared in the November 2008 Rural Policy Matters.

Rural schools, on the whole, are less likely than other schools to eliminate recess in response to pressure to get student test scores up.

On average 3% of rural schools have eliminated recess for students in first grade in order to make more time for instruction in reading and math, subjects tested under the federal No Child Left Behind law. By comparison, 14% of urban schools and 5% of town and suburban schools have eliminated recess.

Schools most likely to eliminate recess are those with high proportions of students of color or students from low-income families. In schools where more than half of all students are students of color, 14% have no recess for first graders. Eighteen percent of schools with free lunch rates at or above 75% offer first graders no recess, an identifiable "recess gap" according to a recent report, "Time Out: Is Recess in Danger?" by the Center for Public Education.

The report looks at several data sources to understand how schools are freeing more time for instruction in tested subjects.

Although relatively few schools have eliminated recess altogether, 20% have reduced the number of minutes students are given for recess.

In addition, 44% of school districts have increased time spent on English/Language Arts and math by in elementary schools by shaving minutes from non-tested subjects like social studies.

Read more from the November 2008 Rural Policy Matters.