Edmonds School District to expand recess pilot program to more schools next year

Edmonds_School_DistrictThe Edmonds School District plans to expand a recess pilot program that is helping to reduce student disciplinary issues.

District staff presented its Recess Remodel Report during the Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday night.

In the 2014-15 school year, six elementary schools participated in the Recess Remodel Pilot program – Brier, Cedar Valley, College Place, Mountlake Terrace Oak Heights and Spruce.

The program included equipment, such as various types of balls, long and short jump ropes, Frisbees, throw down bases and other items. Current recess supervisors received training on how to teach games and how to interact and engage with students in positive ways. Older students were empowered to act as mentors with younger students and students were taught specific strategies for conflict resolution.

District staff indicated that research shows that quality recess correlates with increases in desirable classroom behavior and academic achievement. Better recess leads to less bullying, increased feelings of safety, increased vigorous physical activity and enhanced readiness to learn.

Pre and post program surveys were conducted and the results indicated a decrease in major infractions (sent to office) from 0.21 to 0.09. Minor infractions showed a negligible decline from 0.84 to 0.83.

Classroom teachers reported an average of 5 minutes less per day spent dealing with recess issues, which translated into 25 minutes of gained instructional time per week. District staff felt that those numbers were a big success. Office staff also reported an average of 4 minutes less per day time spent dealing with recess issues.

The feedback from the schools was positive and indicated that the staff felt the Recess Remodel made positive impacts in their school with increased activity levels, higher engagement, fewer injuries and less behavior issues on the playground.

One staffer wrote “I believe there is a direct correlation between the amount and variety of equipment available to students and the number of times students are sent to time out.”

The plan, supported by the Board, is to add six more schools next year and to continue to support the current six schools in the pilot program.

In other news:

-Assistant Superintendent/Secondary Schools Patrick Murphy in his Secondary Report provided an update on the state testing graduation status for the Class of 2015. The percentage of students who met the state testing requirements as of Tuesday’s meeting declined from 93.5 percent in 2014 to 89.1 percent in 2015. The numbers were expected to be lower because this is the first year seniors have to meet a science requirement.

“We’re not surprised we see a slight dip with this new addition of the testing requirement,” Murphy said.

The district reports that 130 students (8.2 percent) have not met the state testing requirement for science.

Murphy said the district saw a 6 percent increase in its graduation rate in 2014 and it is doing better in terms of fewer credit deficiency issues among students. So even with the dip in the passage rate in state testing, Murphy said the district is projecting a higher graduation rate in 2015.

-District staff reported that the Chromebook project has been a success. The district distributed 6,600 Chromebooks in a matter of months whereas in the past that number would have taken two years. The recommendation, supported by the Board, is to continue to purchase Chromebooks rather than netbooks (PCs). The district has about 15,000 devices available for student use.

Prices for Chromebook continue to drop and the district is able to buy 3,900 Chromebooks for what would have been spent on 2,100 Windows netbooks. District staff reported that schools want to replace netbooks with Chromebooks since they are faster, batteries last longer and are easier to troubleshoot.

-The Board honored a number of students in grades 7-12, who earned high school credit through a competency-based World Language Assessment. Students had to take an assessment where they had to read, write, listen and speak in another language to earn up to four high school elective credits.

A total of 181 students took the assessment in 30 different languages and 175 earned credits, averaging 3.5 high school credits per student. In addition 33 graduating senior students earned the Seal of Biliteracy. Students who demonstrate proficiency in English through the state exams and in another language through the World Language Assessment receive a special notation on their transcript and will be recognized at their graduation ceremony by wearing a special cord.

“This is one of the first years we’ve done this,” Board President Diana White said. “It’s a testament to all of the great students. We are just thrilled with the success of the program.”

In the past, students have had to take these assessments offsite and pay out of pocket for the tests.

– Opponents of the district’s plan to install crumb rubber fields at the former Woodway High School site continued to express their opposition to the Board’s decision and to urge the Board to reconsider its decision. Parent Laura Johnson urged the Board to follow the Precautionary Principle, where if an action or policy has a suspected risk of harm, in the absence of proof that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof is on those taking the action. Johnson added that under the principle the social responsibility is to protect the public from harm. She said that there are no long term studies on the health effects of crumb rubber and that “you (Board) are gambling that short term studies are correct.”

Jen Carrigan urged the Board to consider a different infill and added that Verdant, who is providing a $2.5 million grant for the fields, seems receptive to offering additional funding for an alternative to crumb rubber. “Edmonds has the opportunity to set an example, to be progressive in that area,” she said. “It’s not too late for us to make the safest choice for our kids and our environment.”

Other speakers reiterated their hope that the Board will reconsider their decision to approve crumb rubber or to postpone the decision for six months.

– By David Pan

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