22 September 2011

Some elementary schools now "outsource recess"

From the [Mpls/St. Paul] StarTribune:
In an effort to improve playground programs and safety, St. Paul is hiring a private company to supervise recess at seven elementary schools.

The district Tuesday night approved paying Playworks, a national nonprofit, $178,500, or $25,500 per school for a full-time staff member who will chaperone recess, teach children conflict-resolution skills and build a "junior coach" team. Playworks, a 15-year-old nonprofit with programs at 250 schools in 30 cities, actually charges $60,000 per school, but the company has helped the schools get grants and donations to offset more than half the cost.

In addition to monitoring play at recess, Playworks also helps create an after-school program or help with an existing one, as well as jump-start basketball and volleyball leagues for schools. "It's a proven program in a large number of urban areas... There have been far fewer incidents coming out of recess. It's going very well for us. It's certainly an effective and efficient use of our dollars."
When I was in elementary school, recess consisted of us kids being released onto an asphalt parking lot to blow off energy on our own.  That was where I was first threatened with bodily harm by another fifth-grader if I did a certain thing again ("thanks, John (who has undoubtedly forgotten all about this) for teaching me a valuable life lesson...").

Re the financial aspects and rationale for outsourcing this activity, I'm at a loss and have no background to offer commentary.  Those of you in the education field, please feel free to chime in.


  1. Since recess supervision is considered part of the job specification for teachers, shouldn't some of the cost come out of their exorbitant pay??

  2. I can see how it would help some kids with fighting and so forth. I can remember fights breaking out often during lunch and recess (and even being part of a few myself). In some schools this wouldn't be a problem and in some schools, it's a major problem. If this is what the schools need to do to let them get energy out, it's okay with me. Teachers need that breather from kids, too. Yes, the loss of independent play is disappointing, but again, in some places, independent play is not an option because of threats on the playground.

  3. So my 36k a year as a teacher is "exorbitant?" I didn't know I was wealthy, looks like I'll be moving to beverly hills soon.

    In all seriousness, mmwebi sums up my thoughts on the subject pretty well.

  4. Part of the problem is real violence and bullying happening on playgrounds. Teachers are many things, but not all of us are experts in conflict resolution for 8-year-olds.

    Another part of the problem is liability. Thirty years ago, if Jane fell and skinned her knee on the playground, someone helped her get a band-aid and life went on. Now, if Johnny falls and skins his knee, there's the chance of a lawsuit.

    Finally, teachers do need a break to use the bathroom once in a while.

  5. When I was in elementary school in the late '80s/early'90s our teachers didn't supervise recess unless the weather was bad enough for us to stay indoors. On days we'd go outside there were two or three 'recess aides' to watch us. They seemed to rotate days, so it wasn't always the same women. I'm not sure, but I think they were volunteers. They could only shout at us, punish us by making us sit by the wall, or send us to the principal if we were really bad. The idea of using what are essentially contractors to do this job seems odd, but having it done by teachers seems just as odd to me.

  6. @Anonymous, you're trolling about the "exorbitant" pay, right?


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