Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Old and Busted: Spontaneous Playground Recreation. New Hotness: "Recess Coaches"

Back in my day, we walked to school. It was uphill, both ways.

Even worse, we didn't have "recess coaches."
It's not always easy to get kids to play nice. It's also not cheap.

Playworks, a national non-profit that dispatches recess coaches to mostly inner-city schools, says its job is to "put the play back on playgrounds." It comes at a cost of $60,000 per school.

The organization currently is employed by four St. Paul schools and plans to add eight metro-area schools next year, including two in Minneapolis and two in an inner-ring suburb.

Although Playworks charges $60,000, the company has helped the schools get grants and donations to offset more than half the cost. Schools paid $23,500 this year and will pay $25,500 next year.

Some say it's a good investment at a time when bullying is an omnipresent issue and teachers need to be more focused than ever on matters such as improving test scores and overall student achievement.

Others wonder whether it's money well spent, especially with St. Paul Public Schools facing close to a $25 million budget deficit, among other challenges.

"Clearly, we have staff that already supervises playgrounds during recess," said Mary Cathryn Ricker, St. Paul's teachers' union president. "My question is, couldn't you save money by training the staff to do what Playworks does?"

The district has traditionally employed teacher assistants to monitor recess.
Well, if teachers' unions think recess coaches are stepping on their turf then I count that as a point in Playworks' favor. Still, one has to assume that any public school with taxpayer money to burn on recess coaches is not exactly hurting for funding in areas actually having to do with, you know, education.

h/t: Chad the Elder.


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