Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Not That Anything Will Change but Later Start Times Get Better Results

This article about later start times in high schools appeared in the NY Times and was reprinted in the Seattle Times. The author, Nancy Kalish, makes many good points including:
  • better attendance, both in students being there and being on-time
  • lower dropout rate
  • fewer teen car crashes
  • higher scores on standardized tests
She also points out:

"So why hasn't every school board moved back that first bell? Well, it seems that improving teenagers' performance takes a back seat to more pressing concerns: the cost of additional bus service, the difficulty of adjusting after-school activity schedules and the inconvenience to teachers and parents. But few of those problems actually come to pass, according to the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota. In Kentucky and Minnesota, simply flipping the starting times for the elementary and high schools meant no extra cost for buses. Nor have after-school jobs and activities been affected as anticipated. And though team practices and matches might have to start a bit later, student participation has usually stayed the same."

As well:

"Massachusetts has opened more than a dozen "expanded learning time" schools, which add about three hours to the school day. Students spend additional time on such subjects as math and English, but also enjoy plentiful art, music, physical education and recess -- all of which are being slashed at many schools.

Also, why not make sure there's built-in time for doing homework? That way, children could get their work done at school where professionals can help them, freeing them to spend time with their families when they do get home."

My experience with Hale is that my son felt more alert (self-reported) and the teachers said students seemed to "be there" more during the early periods. All of this would take organization but the benefits seem mighty.


Anonymous said...

I have a number of kids that really struggle first and second periods. Some that are just not morning people and some that work insane hours. I feel for them. At 3 pm they have to be pushed out of the building because there is no one to supervise them.

It would be nice if less decisions were based on cost and more on what's good for students. (you may call me a dreamer....)

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why high schools can't have later start times once they are on Metro.

Will it be possible to have high schoolers on staggered schedules to make more flexibilty with the classes they take, homework centers, etc?

Anonymous said...

I think we need to have an activist group for this.

Seriously, is anyone interested in really making a push for this to happen in Seattle? I apologize if I'm ignorant, but has a serious, organized attempt been made already?

Anonymous said...

I would start by asking the admin at Hale how they did it? They have late start and I hear it has been strongly supported by parents. They were one of the first schools to go to Metro years ago.

Anonymous said...

I am all for some activism here.

What are the typical start times for Seattle middle schools and high schools?

My children's elementary schools start at 9 am and 9:10 am respectively, which works well for us. But before-school Spanish was a short-lived experiment . . . for us and several others, unfortunately.

Charlie Mas said...

Seattle Dad, Seattle Mom, welcome to your Jesse Jackson moment.

I have experienced a number of these moments. They go like this:

I see a situation. The situation cries out for a remedy. I think to myself "Somebody ought to do something." I think, "Somebody ought to take action." And then, the Jesse Jackson moment when I realize "I am somebody". After that, it's all simple. I take action. I do something.

You need to see yourself as somebody. Somebody capable to take the necessary action. Don't be afraid that you'll screw it up. Don't worry that you're just one small voice. Take courage and confidence in the worthiness of your cause. Inspire others to the best that is within them. Don't lose hope. And remember, even if all of your efforts are futile, that doesn't absolve you of the obligation to make those efforts. All you can do is your best, but you must do that.

I suggest that you approach this effort first by contacting the District officials and learning who is responsible for these decisions. Is it Mr. Tolley or does each high school decide for themselves? If it is each principal deciding for themselves, then contact the principals - politely and respectfully - and aske them if they haven't already considered making the change. Learn why they have not made the change. Address those concerns.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Typical start-end times:

elementary, 9:00-3:00
middle, 7:45-2:15
high, 8:10-2:50

Those are for the lower schools my kids attend, and our likely high school, Ballard.

That early middle school start time has been a huge problem. The amount of homework, while so far not excessive, is greater than elementary school and must be completed daily as opposed to the packet-model due at the end of the week. You would think the extra time in the afternoon would be good for completing homework, but kids either stay after school for activities or come home to an empty house in many families. Homework remains an evening affair in most cases, and bedtime disruptions can cause a serious problem the next morning. --Lisa

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous 10:23, most high schools start at 7:45 and end at 2:15. Ballard starts later(8:10) as does Hale (8:30) and Center School (the latest high school at 9:00 but they have, I believe, no yellow bus service). Summit also starts at 9 but they are K-12. Two schools, Sealth and West Seattle start at 7:40. All the middle schools start at 7:45.

What happened at Hale was you had an active group of parents, an agreeable principal AND teachers who were okay with it. If the school(s) fight it, good luck.

I just think the will isn't there. But, as Charlie said, organize a group, contact PTAs of middle and high schools (it's work but that's being an activist). Ask to talk at their PTA meeting/board meeting. There really aren't problems that couldn't be surmounted; it just might take looking at it from a different angle. Tell your Board Director it matters. Talk to the folks in Transportation to pick their brains.

There is a plethora of research/news out there. (I have a lot of it from trying to convince Hale although I take no credit for its change because it was on its way by the time my son got there.)

There's no reason it can work elsewhere and not here.

Anonymous said...

Ingraham will be starting "about forty minutes later" next year, when they switch to Metro. There's an article about it in the December _Cascade_ (school newspaper). The principal said it's possible that Metro will rearrange some routes to make direct routes easier to come by -- currently most kids would have to transfer, I should think. I worked it out from our house, and it would be two buses and close to an hour. Currently a yellow bus to Ingraham hits my area just before 7 AM for what I assume is a 7:45 start.

Helen Schinske

Jet City mom said...

my daughter takes metro to school. Last year as a junior she earned an A in chem, her most difficult class, it was right after lunch- a hard time for a rigourous class.
THis year she has physics as her hardest class. However it starts at 7:40. She isn't late, she gets to bed by ten or so. She is flunking despite working hard.
I think the class time has a lot to do with it,
She isn't the only one.

Anonymous said...

At today's Roosevelt tour, the principal said that they haven't been able to move the start time back because some kids were still on yellow buses this year and that special ed buses have been an issue. He said that they are going to look at it again for next year but that the special ed buses might still be an issue. He didn't mention sports/activities/teachers being an issue which surprised me (on the other hand, he didn't (to me) sound too excited about moving the time back).

Does anyone know if the HS walk zones are purely based on distance? We are within Roosevelt's walk zone (2.5 miles)but my kid would have to cross (go over or under) Aurora and I-5 to get there. That didn't seem impossible until I realized that he'll have to do the whole thing with a thirty pound pack at 7 in the morning. Given Seattle's geography, that can't be unusual.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, I was at the tour as well (as a guide) and we had even discussed this subject briefly at the PTSA meeting the night before. The yellow buses are - for the most part - going away.

The assessment about sports seems to be the correct one as to why this change doesn't happen and I am baffled by this argument. How can sports trump academics? I would guess because people don't believe it is true that kids do better coming in later. That we are coddling them by saying it. But people are so worried about the traffic that the larger schools - Ballard, Roosevelt and Garfield who are in King-co 4A - would endure to get to games around the Sound. I think there needs to be push back that academics trumps sports (and I say this as someone with a son who plays soccer).

As for the distance, I think, yes, the walk zone is based on distance and not geography. Anyone else?

Jet City mom said...

yes walk zone is based on distance- although in the case of some schools- like elementary- route may be considered. But if you live at the bottom of one hill and your school is at the bottom on the other side- but it is 2.4 miles. Then you are walking- or what most kids do is take Metro & pay for the pass themselves.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever proposed playing sports at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning?! Then start school at 9:30 or 10 (or noon) and beat the traffic that way.

Isn't it true that most teen vandalism/crime/sex happens in the afternoon? Start school later, they will sleep in the morning and be safely supervised until parents get home from work. Win-win-win!

Anonymous said...

According to what I was hearing at the Ingraham tour, lots of sports practices don't start directly after school -- the kids talked about having some time to study or decompress between the end of class and the beginning of practice. If that's true, it might well be possible to keep a lot of the sports times about the same.

In my day, the swim team had practices before school. Dunno whether schools still do that.

Helen Schinske

dan dempsey said...


Fife High School swims in the mornings.

How about letting high schools start by scheduling some classes outside the normal school day. Then see who attends.

most high schools start at 7:45 and end at 2:15.

If some sections of classes were held from 2:30 - 3:25 and 3:30 to 4:25 then students could take those and show up for school at 9:45 AM rather than 7:45 AM.

Anonymous said...

I worked at a school that started at 12 and finished at 6. There are some kids who's parents work late or take medication. I know kids that work as well.

An alternative program really means an alternative - some programs I hear convince students they should drop out. I can't stand Washington's schools - running start is the best alternative Washington has. What a waste of human beings.

At my school in Southern California we had a 98% attendance rate and all graduates were accepted into a post-secondary program. It was hard work.

We set realistic expectations and our efforts were rewarded. Stop pretending that your textbooks work - if your students are not engaged there is something wrong. Learning is a natural process. Preaching standards is unnatural.

Washington has lost complete confidence in public schooling. The people responsible need to resign. Go somewhere else with your fool ideas. Otherwise its going to get very expensive.

Now we will all have to wait for a revolution. Minorities have every reason to be angry - the schools here are out of compliance.

The only reason you still have Title I is the Feds don't want the responsibility and it would embarrass conservatives who reformed basic education when they passed NCLB. Don't forget MSP's are partially responsible and they were funded by NSF and who runs that ship - AAAS. The only people getting rich off public education are conservative republicans - look at how many textbooks come from Michigan.

You should be asking yourself why you can't become better teachers? Answer: You blindly follow your textbooks and you actually believe kids can discover what they need to know to pass the WASL. Give me a break. Most of these kids finish high school unable to pass the SAT - 60% can't even pass an eighth grade test. Even kids are starting to wonder why there are super seniors still taking 9th grade math classes with 8th grade textbooks. Stop deluding yourselves. Get real.