Monday, January 19, 2009

Later start Times? Let's Go!

This article appeared in today's PI about later start times. It includes information from a study done in Lexington, Kentucky in 1998 that showed when the school district there pushed back middle/high school start times by an hour, two things happened; more sleep and fewer teen traffic accidents (this from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine). It did not establish conclusively that the change in start times led to the improvement of accident rates but there was a significant drop in the accident rate in the county where Lexington is located. From the PI article:

"The National Sleep Foundation has conducted detailed studies into teen sleep. One statistic stands out: Three of every 10 students admit to falling fast asleep during class at least once per week."

"Another stat from the National Sleep Foundation: Fifteen percent of teen drivers surveyed admitted to driving drowsy at least once per week."

"In this study, when start times were delayed by one hour, the percentage of kids getting at least eight hours of sleep rose to 50 percent. Before altering start times, Danner and Phillips found just more than a third of middle and high school students in the district logged at least eight hours of sleep. The previous start times were 7:30 a.m. for the high school and 8 a.m. at the middle school.

While some might challenge that kids simply need to retire earlier at night, the hormonal research points to a certain biological futility to that effort. Laying in bed awake doesn't count as sleep. Another important finding is the students in the study needed less catch-up sleep on weekends, indicating that you can better regulate a child's sleep habits with a bit later start in the morning."

And from the study it was found that in the two years after the school start time change, the average crash rates for 17-19 year old drivers in the county went down 16 percent while in the rest of the state they increased almost 8 percent.

The district is actively discussing start time changes for middle/high school (but more like a half hour than an hour) to save money on transportation costs. I've heard many people here bemoan how hard it is to transition their child from elementary to middle school because of the start times.

Let the Board know you want this to happen if that is your desire for your child. We have at least 2 high schools that start at 8:15-8:30 (Ballard and Hale) and they still have sports and after-school activities (the main complaints against changing start times).

13 comments:

momster said...

thanks for this, mel.

salmon bay's 9ish start time was a significant factor in our putting the school first on our list of choices.

our 11 yo son is not even awake at the time most comprehensive middle-schoolers are starting their first class (much less getting on the bus).

momster said...

ps - mel, i don't know high school at all - what are the issues with after school activities and sports?

with sports, is it that if you have later start but are in a conference with high schools who don't, you'll have to leave your classes even earlier to get to the games? or that it would be harder to get home by metro after practice if it's later (3-5 vs 2:30-4:30?) or do they practice so long that it runs into dinner time?

my salmon bay 6th grader plays on the basketball team and practices from 3-5 - which seems reasonable - but he gets a yellow bus home I think courtesy of the families and education levy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The issue tends to be that it gets dark quickly in the fall/winter hours and if practices don't start until 3 that doesn't give enough time for a full practice (our field, at least, has no lights). I've never heard any real issue around game/meet start times.

I'm not sure Metro is the issue although I think others could chime in and let us know.

And when I say afterschool activities, I should have said jobs. You get some issues raised over students having less time to work.

Cathy said...

My child is a freshman at Ballard High this year, and we both love the later start time. Even the extra 1/2 hour or so of sleep is useful for her. Too bad my other child still has another year and a half at Whitman! I'm looking forward to sleeping a little later in the morning.

The later start does mean she comes home later than she did from middle school -- 3:20-3:30 instead of 2:40. (She also has to walk instead of taking the bus, so that's part of it).

old salt said...

Is there data that relates later start times to improved test scores? That would be useful.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'd have to go back and look in my files (I researched this, what, about 7 years ago.) I think there is but the problem is that you can't definitively link it to later start times. But there is enough evidence (and there is definitive evidence about the teen brain and sleep patterns).

Funny but the district is finally considering this but it's about money and not academic achievement or safety.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

An 8:30 start time is just one of the things that makes The Center School attractive to our family. It's especially good when the kids have to take public transportation to get to school; they are waiting at bus stops in the dark.

adhoc said...

We will probably have to drive our younger son to his middle school next year, because I can't see sending an 11 year old up to Lake City Way (our bus stop) to wait for a yellow bus at 7:00, in the dark, by himself. It just doesn't seem safe to me. And, at MS, it's to embarrassing to have mom or dad wait with you at the bus stop..... so I guess we'll be driving at 7in the morning......unless we get late start!!!!

hschinske said...

I walked my daughters to the bus stop and waited with them all the way through eighth grade. I don't think it's that uncommon any longer (and it doesn't seem any more overprotective than driving them). It also meant that if I absolutely couldn't go with them some morning, they'd know the routine quite well.

Helen Schinske

seattleparent said...

Actually, 5 of the 10 comprehensive high schools have later starts (8:00 to 8:30):
Ballard, Hale, Cleveland, RB, WSHS

Apparently Sealth also wanted a later start, but they are still using the yellow busses because of their temporary location, so they are locked into the 7:45 range.

All of the high schools have a full 6-1/2 hours except for WSHS, which has cut 10 minutes from the standard schedule this year, which adds up to 30 hours less time at school for those students this year!

The rationale was to keep the ending time shorter for sports, but half of the schools this year finish later anyway, in the 2:30 to 3:00 range. I would think that all the Seattle high schools would at least be required to have the full 6-1/2 hours overall in their schedule.

Rose M said...

I walk my daughter to the metro stop at 6:55 every day & wait with her until the bus comes. She is a 7th grader.

WS said...

I have to add a personal comment on this topic: We have a kid who should probably be a research project subject this year because he is getting the chance to live a natural schedule free of alarm clocks - at least for this year (haven't decided next year yet). After leaving SPS at the end of last year, he is on the WAVA online program for 7th grade. We work at home, and at odd hours. His ideal natural biological-clock schedule seems to be 2 am bed, 1 pm wake. No wonder life was so miserable last year when he had to be up at 6:30 so we could drive him to a crosstown middle school for a 7-something bell.

anonymous said...

WS, I loved reading your post! We're researching how to do something like that if we get some "unplanned vacation" (read: layoff) and can be home during the day. It's a wonderful thing to be able to spend time with your kids during those middle years.

Also nice to imagine being outside the system during the current round of school district upheaval...