Impact and Implementation Findings from an Experimental Evaluation of Playworks

Effects on School Climate, Academic Learning, Student Social Skills and Behavior

2009-14 Playworks

Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University conducted a randomized controlled trial of Playworks, a nonprofit organization that delivers a safe, healthy recess in low-income elementary schools in 22 U.S. cities. They collected data from students, teachers and school staff at the schools that participated in the trial. The findings are reported in four research briefs; this is the second of those briefs.

Key Findings

  • Increased Feelings of Safety at School: There was a positive impact of Playworks on teachers’ reports of students using positive, encouraging language; teachers’ perceptions of the extent to which students felt safe at school; and teachers’ perceptions of the extent to which students felt safe and included during recess. Teachers in treatment schools were also significantly more likely than teachers in control schools to report that school staff support organized play during the school day.

  • Less Bullying: Teachers in treatment schools reported less bullying and exclusionary behavior than teachers in control schools.

  • Ready to Learn: Teachers in treatment schools were less likely to report difficulties in transitioning to classroom learning activities after recess and reported taking significantly less time to transition from recess to learning activities than teachers in control schools. Treatment students were also more likely than control students to report better behavior and attention in class after sports, games and play.

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Video: Scaling Playworks

Changing Social Norms
Changing Social Norms