Whole-Child Education

Student-centered learning is a hot topic in education. But what does it really mean?  There are several different models and no real agreed-upon definition.  However, they do have two things in common:
*learning must not be one size fits all–the focus should be shifted from teacher-centered instruction to student-centered learning.
*education must consist not just of academics focused heavily on math and English language arts, but of components that also address physical growth, emotional growth, academic growth, and social growth.

Whole Child Education Frameworks

Moving forward, a 21st-century education must consist not just of academics focused heavily on math and English language arts, but of four components: Physical growth, Emotional growth, Academic growth, and Social growth –PEAS. PEAS allows children to tap into their own potentials and maximize their talents. 

In NYS, students must pass five Regents exams in order to graduate from high school. Consortium schools oppose regents exams and the use of high stakes testing as a measure for student performance.  Currently, there are thirty-eight schools in the statewide New York Performance Standards Consortium.  The consortium has a state waiver which allows their students to earn a diploma by passing just one comprehensive English Exam.  Instead, accountability is performance-based; assessments are individualized, research-oriented and student-focused. Students write reports and defend their work; make presentations and design experiments.

While by no means exhaustive, the following is a list of what NYS Allies for Public Education believes all schools must have to foster creative, critically-thinking, confident, well-rounded, independent, self-motivated, culturally competent, and well-prepared students who can work cooperatively and excel post-high school, whether they choose to attend college or pursue a vocation. We call on all aspects of public education to be rooted in ethical practices and democratic decision making.

Official NYC DOE Recess Policy

The withdrawal of recess “for any reason” is expressly forbidden by the New York City Department of Education policy and many NYS districts have Board of Education Policies reflecting the same

  • Recommendations cited by the NYCDOE state: “The core issue is that administering or withdrawing physical activity as punishment is inappropriate and constitutes an unsound education practice.”
  • According to the National Education Association, “withholding recess as a form of discipline is counterproductive to healthy child development.”
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics states that recess “should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.”
  • According to expert consensus, recess and physical activity improve behavior, standardized test scores, and academic performance.
  • The practices of “recess punishment” and “lunch detention” appear to be rampant in many NY schools, at truly alarming levels.

(Note: this does not refer to unsafe situations on the recess yard like fights, but to the withdrawal of recess as an individual or collective punishment of children for things like late homework and not sitting still.)


1. NYCDOE Wellness Policy, see “Physical Activity”:
In the NYCDOE Discipline Code, “exclusion from communal lunchtime” is listed as a possible disciplinary consequence, but exclusion from recess is not, and recess and lunch are clearly two different things. The Code states that in-school disciplinary consequences “must be done in accordance with the Wellness Policy,” which expressly forbids using recess as a punishment. See “In-School Disciplinary Consequences” in DOE Discipline Code:
2.  NYC DOE Discipline Code, citing Shape America:
5. See, for example, CDC, “The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance,” [https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/pa-pe_paper.pdf](https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/pa-pe_paper.pdf)

Long Island Whole-Child Initiatives

Need some ideas?  Or maybe you just want to see what’s going on in other districts.
Check out the table below to see what whole-child policies are being implemented throughout Long Island.
If there is something in your district you would to add, get in touch with us.


HomeworkComsewogueDistrict WideDistrict WideNo homework given on first Tuesday of every month
HomeworkSmithtownDistrict WideDistrict WideNo homework, Family Game Night once/month
HomeworkValley Stream (District 13)ElementaryElementaryStudents are given one homework pass in the beginning of the school year, the students decide when they want to use it
RecessPort WashingtonElementaryElementary30 minutes of recess PLUS 30 minute to each lunch with 5 minutes to switch
RecessPatchogue/MedfordElementaryElementaryRecess has been doubled from 20 to 40 minutes plus 5-15 minute recess breaks in between sustained instruction
Do No HarmHewlett-Woodmere School District #14High SchoolHigh School"Do no harm" for CC Regents only
Do No HarmJericho Union Free School District #15High SchoolHigh School"Do No Harm" for CC Regents
Greenhouse/GardenLevittownWisdom Lane Middle SchoolMiddleThe Garden Club meets approximately 22 times a year; students work with a greenhouse, rain barrels and compost bins. The members learn how to maintain the plants as they grow food products such as broccoli, carrots, rosemary, parsley and peas. They have also worked on activities such a building birdhouses, have created fundraisers with their fresh produce and have donated food to the culinary teachers in the building for their lessons.
Do No HarmBellmore-MerrickHigh SchoolHigh SchoolAll regents exams. Counts in students' gpa only if it helps rather than hurts