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Monday, July 05, 2010

Big Surprise (because, seriously, we all know this)

From the PI online, a story of a study out of Rhode Island boarding school that shows that teens do better going to school later (and they're talking just 30 minutes later). Anyone who has a teen surprised? I didn't think so. The results were in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (which, unfortunately, you can only access with a subscription.

From the article:

Giving teens 30 extra minutes to start their school day leads to more alertness in class, better moods, less tardiness, and even healthier breakfasts, a small study found.

"The results were stunning. There's no other word to use," said Patricia Moss, academic dean at the Rhode Island boarding school where the study was done. "We didn't think we'd get that much bang for the buck."

Researchers say there's a reason why even 30 minutes can make a big difference. Teens tend to be in their deepest sleep around dawn - when they typically need to arise for school. Interrupting that sleep can leave them groggy, especially since they also tend to have trouble falling asleep before 11 p.m.

"There's biological science to this that I think provides compelling evidence as to why this makes sense," said Brown University sleep researcher Dr. Judith Owens, the study's lead author and a pediatrician at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I.

They acknowledge this issues that the study comes from a well-heeled group of students because of issues at public schools like transportation, daycare for sibs, etc.

While these issues have killed many proposals elsewhere, some public high schools including those in Minneapolis and West Des Moines have adopted later starting times.

What happened?

Starting times were shifted from 8 to 8:30. All class times were cut 5 to 10 minutes to avoid a longer school day that would interfere with after-school activities. Moss said improvements in student alertness made up for that lost instruction time.

The portion of students reporting at least eight hours of sleep on school nights jumped from about 16 percent to almost 55 percent. Reports of daytime sleepiness dropped substantially, from 49 percent to 20 percent.

First-period tardies fell by almost half, students reported feeling less depressed or irritated during the day, health center rest visits dropped substantially; and the number of hot breakfasts served more than doubled. Moss said the healthier breakfast probably aided classtime alertness.

Way back when my oldest son was almost ready for high school, I had been doing a lot of research on this issue hoping to find a school in SPS to do it. Imagine my delight when I found that Hale was doing it. I feel like the later start did make a difference and the teachers seemed to feel that way as well. Hale got to keep its late start only because they have no students with yellow bus service and I wonder how hard families and staff might have fought had it been threatened under the new SAP. I know I would have.

The issue of after-school activities was barely mentioned in the article but I found that for most districts this seems to be the major issue with transportation issues second. Many students and parents were worried about how it would all work out but isn't the issue academics? Yes, I know after-school activities are important to students but really, isn't it about getting the best from the kids academically? And, couldn't they schedule some activities in a "zero" period (that's what we did at my high school) to cover it? It's baffling.

Oh and as well research has shown that a later start time also helps cut down on teen driving accidents.

1 comment:

Eric M said...

Yeah, this RESEARCH is well-known. It's really frustrating that when research provides some really clear-cut evidence, well, SPS admin ignores. In fact at Ballard High School, we started EARLIER this year.

While we're ranting about the stoopidity of our schedule, let's talk about 2 lunch periods, so there's no chance of a teacher meeting with all their students during lunch for tutorial, club meetings, etc.