Author: Jorge Ruiz de Velasco
Academic Year: 2014-15
Description: Educators across the country are exploring ways to integrate positive development experiences for their students throughout the school day, including opportunities for physical activity and play. Playworks is a program that aims to create “safe, inclusive school environments where kids can grow, lead, and thrive” (Playworks, 2013a). Through trained, full-time “coaches” focused on recess in low-income elementary schools across the country, Playworks provides opportunities for inclusive play, and physical activity. Prior research has found that not only can Playworks increase physical activity but the program also can improve school
climate, for instance by increasing safety and reducing incidence of bullying (Bleeker, Beyler, James-Burdumy, & Fortson, 2015; London, Westrich, Stokes-Guinan, & McLaughlin, 2015).
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Playworks, and two San Francisco Bay Area school districts have partnered with the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University (Gardner Center) to study whether the positive outcomes of the Playworks program translate into improved school attendance of students at Playworks schools. The importance of school attendance is well established in the education literature (Aud, Fox, & Kewal Ramani, 2010; Chang & Romero, 2008; Gottfried, 2010, 2011; Romero & Lee, 2007). Based on prior research indicating that Playworks improves school climate and reduces bullying, we hypothesize that the program may reduce absenteeism by decreasing student aversion to coming to school. We also hypothesize that the program is unlikely to influence absences related to other factors including parental discretion or barriers such as transportation or health, and therefore we anticipate the magnitude of any increases in attendance associated with the program to be small.
This study investigating the relationship between schools’ Playworks participation and student attendance focuses on elementary and K-8 schools and students participating in Playworks in the San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts. Our research design includes a comparison group of students in similar schools not currently participating in Playworks1, and a series of multivariate regression analyses estimating the relationship between Playworks participation and student attendance.