Assessing the impact of recess on academic achievement in mathematics and reading among third and fourth graders: a causal-comparative inquiry




McMath, Barbie


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Improving students’ achievement scores has been a critical issue for both educators and legislators. Eliminating or reducing recess to increase instructional time has become a common practice. The purpose of the study was to examine the impact of recess on the academic achievement in reading and mathematics among third and fourth grade students. The study employed an ex post facto, causal-comparative/group comparison research design and included two elementary schools in Northeast Texas. The characteristic-present group consisted of a non-probability sample of 168 third and 167 fourth grade students at elementary school “A” that incorporated recess as part of the daily master schedule in 2016-2017. The comparison group consisted of 165 third and 170 fourth graders at elementary school “B” that did not incorporate recess. State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) scores were used to measure academic achievement.
A detailed analysis of the data, which included univariate, multivariate, and co-variate statistical techniques, as well as an examination of the practical significance of the findings, did not indicate that recess participation was associated with academic achievement. Although at the fourth grade, the recess group outperformed the no recess group based on one STAAR mathematics category, the randomness of the finding could not be ruled out. The results of the study support the notion that the conversation about recess and the role of free play in the development of children and school schedules should be continued. Even though the results did not support the a priori hypotheses, favoring recess, it is important to remember that recess participation did not appear to hinder the students’ academic performance. Policy makers, parents, and educators must review policies and procedures regarding recess, and note the role recess plays in the social and emotional well-being of children. Therefore, this study must be reviewed in relation to the existing body of literature, and hopefully, researchers will continue conducting scientific inquiries in assessing the role of recess in school. As school districts are asked to make data-driven and research-based instructional decisions, it is important to consider recess in the development of master schedules and plans of action.



assessment, mathematics, reading, recess



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