Recess Policy Across America: How Does Every State Score?

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

What States Require Recess?

Recess in the United States is a hot-button issue. Despite recess for elementary-school students being proven to boost academic performance and make children happier, it is often discarded in favor of fulfilling arbitrary quotas of schooling hours and cramming in more lessons in less time. Currently, only five states require some amount of daily recess: Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, and Rhode Island mandate 20 minutes of daily recess for elementary-school students, and Arizona requires two periods of recess with no specified length. Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Connecticut, and Virginia require 20 to 30 minutes of daily activity for elementary schools, but it is up to the schools to determine how that time is used (P.E. classes, recess, brain breaks, etc.). We conducted a thorough study on the quality, quantity, laws, and regulations of recess in every U.S. state and assigned each a grade:

What Is the Importance of Recess?

Recess is incredibly valuable for many reasons. Playtime and unstructured recreation are crucial because they nurture all facets of child development. Physical, emotional, cognitive, social, mental, and academic growth are naturally encouraged through play. Time spent on the playground or field builds character beyond the classroom because children make their own choices, create their own games, and build their own communities. In addition to the long-term qualities developed through recess, it also provides an essential reprieve from the stress and pressure of school (and sometimes home). When children feel less stressed, their brains are more prepared and eager to absorb information. Here is a basic overview of the benefits of recess:

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