Seattle Schools' Taskforce Recommends Changing Bell Times

I'm a bit late on this one but the the taskforce on bell times released its report to the Board on Wednesday.  The upshot is that they voted that high schools should start an hour later with most elementaries starting 90 minutes later.  There were three minority reports.

As I previously reported, Bellevue and Mercer Island are working together on this issues as well as Northshore and Lake Washington.  All these districts and Seattle School District are faced with the financial and logistic challenges that a change would bring.

SCORE: [3.45]
Modified Flip option             17 votes
No Change                              2 votes
Extended High School Day     0 votes
(Non-voting task force members: 3) 

The Modified Flip is a three-tier program:
Tier 1 is most elementary schools would start at 8 am and end at 2:10 pm.  
Tier 2 is some elementary schools and all high schools would start at 8:50 am with elementaries ending at 3:00 pm and high school at 3:20 pm.  
Tier 3 is all middle schools and all K-8s would start at 9:40 am and end at 4:10 pm.
The Taskforce believes the Modified Flip would save the district money. 

The Taskforce also acknowledges that there will be further community meetings for parents and community to give input. 
Pages 13-16 review the Pros and Cons for each of the three voted-on choices.

The Taskforce notes that they DID consider eight other possibilities with the highest ranking on being a Two-Tier system where most elementaries (and one K-8) would start at 8 am and end at 2:10 pm (with the K-8 ending at 2:30 pm).  Tier Two would be all other elementaries and all high/middle and K-8s starting at 8:50 am and ending at 3:20 pm.

Also key (and very thoughtful from the Taskforce):
Additionally, this report contains numerous references and citations of research focusing on effects to student academics, attendance and well-being from later start times. There is a wealth of research available on adolescent sleep patterns and school start and end times (see Addenda ‘Citations from data review summaries’). However, important to highlight are the limitations to generalizing the findings to Seattle. Often seen in the cited research itself are caveats to conclusions and notes of caution in generalizing the results of the studies too broadly. Among the difficulties faced by researchers was the challenge of establishing causality over correlation, or collecting consistent, reliable data able to be used for comparison and analysis. The environments and student populations studied differ from one another in many ways, including original school start times, socioeconomic backgrounds, race/ethnic diversity, and region of the country. The Task Force made recommendations based upon the best available research and interpreted the research data to the best of its ability.


- The Taskforce states that it worked with getting feedback via the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program, a bell times survey and arrival times inbox (I'm not sure what the last one is).  However, they were not able to have all that data when they wrote their report.
  •  The community survey data from both the N2N program and the online survey were unavailable in their entirety due to the timing of data availability. The Task Force recommends that this data should inform the equity analysis that the District uses when making a decision. (p. 11)
  • The Task Force reviewed many options for potential schedule changes in February 2015, prior to the bulk of the operational information being available to the Task Force. A two tier option and a modified flip option (that positions K-8 schools in the second tier) were also favored by the Task Force at that time. The Task Force report continues to support additional analysis of these options. 
  • The Task Force acknowledges the complexities of making any changes and further acknowledges that District Operations were “not of primary significance in the recommendation criteria” used by the Task Force, but are relevant. (p. 9) 
Let's examine those points.  The first one is a good one for the Board to consider on equity.  The second one explains that they did try to take into account what possible schedules might mean operationally BUT the third point acknowledges that - I believe - the Taskforce was considering the academic outcomes more than the operational hazards.  (It is not clear to me whether the Taskforce had all the info on those operational problems that they needed in order to include them in their report.)
  • The Taskforce has a great chart system (pages 7-9)  to consider impacts like older siblings caring for younger siblings, Special Ed students, school breakfast, etc.   
  • There were three brief Minority Reports.  One was from the SE Seattle Education Coalition who called into question the make-up of the Taskforce in terms of finding minority members.  A second was from the Seattle School Nurse Association.  They find that one major complaint students have from middle/high school students who visit them is feeling sleepy/tired.  They support the Modified Flip but wish the Tier 3 start time was earlier than 9:40 am.  
  • One Taskforce member, Kathy Katterhagen, believes that the recommendation may affect many more low-income students who struggle already.


Anonymous said…
The modified flip has middle school students starting at 9:40 (!) and getting out at 4:10 (!). One problem gets solved (later start time for high schoolers), but another is created (crazy late start time for middle schoolers). How is this a good solution? What about after school activities and sports? What about older siblings that watch their younger siblings after school? What teachers want to be on this schedule? Was this all just an exercise to say they looked into changes, but the changes were not workable, so it's a guaranteed no vote? I truly do not understand how the modified flip proposal got this far.

Anonymous said…
One Taskforce member, Kathy Katterhagen, believes that the recommendation may affect many more low-income students who struggle already.

Affect in a negative or positive way? My first thought with the 9:40 start time was more students may skip school if parents are not seeing them off on their way to work in the morning.

Perplexed, you need to go read her entire statement. I can't print everything.
Anonymous said…
The cited research on later start times deals with more modest changes than the 2 hour shift being proposed for middle school. The supposed benefits of later starts were for schools moving from say, 7:00 to 7:50, or 7:30 to 8:00, or shifting 30 minutes later. Those results are being extrapolated to justify a significantly later start of 9:40, when it's unknown whether such a late start is too late. At what point is there a diminishing return because attention is poor in those later period classes (as it probably is for elementary students currently on the third tier), or because there are other unintended consequences of such a late release (less time for tutoring or homework)?

SPS Mom said…
I continue to believe that if the district ran the costs for a 2 tier system with a 75 minute difference, that it would actually be less expensive (certainly not more expensive!) than the modified flip with 3 tiers. The 50 minute time difference between tiers practically guarantees that a bus/driver can't run a 45 minute route and get to the start of a new route... This could get the elementary kids starting at 8am and the middle, high and K8 kids starting about 9:15-9:20. It feels like the district modeled the 50 minute time difference to make the costs as high as possible...
Lynn said…
gah and perplexed,

Nobody is claiming that a 9:40 start for middle school students is a good idea. The dstrict told the task force that two tiers was impossible to implement. When pressed, Pegi McEvoy came up with an unbelievably high estimate of the cost and it wasn't on the list of options the task force was allowed to consider.

I think a 9:40 start for middle school is ridiculous - but no more ridiculous than it is for elementary schools now. At least middle school is only three years. I feel for parents stuck with a 9:40 elemtary start for six years.

Ideally, parents should make it clear to the superintendent that we want two tiers. 9:40 is too late for any school to start.
Anonymous said…
Lynn, couldn't those that have had the late elementary start for years now be the ones to have a late middle school start?

Anonymous said…
I think a 9:40 start for middle school is ridiculous - but no more ridiculous than it is for elementary schools now.

I disagree--it IS more ridiculous. Middle school is a longer school day, so the same start time results in a much later release time. Add that to the fact that middle school age afterschool activities and practices tend to last longer (e.g., 2 hr sports practice vs. 1 hr more common for elementary), and things become more unworkable. And many middle school students need those afterschool sports to satisfy their PE waiver. I don't see how this will work. It's not like all the afterschool activity providers for this age group can just push start times back a couple hours--they usually have HS age students, and then often adults, lined up next.

TechyMom said…
8 is too early. I am glad we're out of elementary school, but really feel for those who have to make that time. I wish the latest time was for high school, as more high school kids than middle school kids are responsible enough to get themselves to school.
Anonymous said…
If we do end up with a 9:40 start for middle schools, it seems likely that some before-school activities for middle school students will develop. I would have been happy to send my middle school students to a sports or arts activity, or community center or Boys & Girls Club program, before school. The logistics might be tricky, but then so is dealing with a 2:20 release time.

Charlie Mas said…
I appreciate that changes in start times will impact out-of-school activities, but I don't think we should allow that tail to wag the school dog.
SPS Mom said…
The current modified flip with K8's at the 9:40 start time puts those students with this crazy schedule for NINE years. It's way too late for 3 years of middle school for all of the reasons above. It's just plain too late.
Anonymous said…
I hear your point, Charlie, and agree at some level. However, out-of-school activities are very closely linked with in-school activities at the middle school level. For example, if you are taking both music and a foreign language, as a large proportion do, your afterschool sports are essentially your PE class. You need them to get the PE waiver. And more important, with middle school capacity the way it is, schools cannot possibly give everyone a PE class. Schools need for kids to get those waivers.

I'm also a firm believer that these non-academic activities are essential to the socio-emotional health of many middle school age kids. Kids no longer get recess once they start middle school, so opportunities to socialize are limited. They arrive, spend all day in classes, then leave. Without the opportunity to connect via sports, my kid would have had an even more miserable and isolating year. Yes, schools should focus on academics. But schools should not get in the way of the rest of life--because there really is more to life than academics for an 11- or 14-yr-old.

But that's obviously just my 2 cents,
Anonymous said…
9:40 start time for middle school is ridiculous. Further, it adversely impacts hundreds of K8 students. This is not an acceptable solution and I and my fellow parents will be writing to ask the board to vote no. It isn't the fault of the taskforce. It is staff that is making this unworkable to thousands of families and I hold them responsible as usual for a complete lack of transparency around actual monetary details (2 tier vs 3 tier).

Lori said…
My student doesn't play sports so my question may not be a big deal, but how much class time might middle school and highschool students miss on game days if their classes go until 410PM and 320PM, respectively?

If they play other SPS schools, maybe games will just be scheduled late enough to ensure they don't miss too much time?

What about games against private schools? I've heard that several private schools in the north part of town aren't planning to make changes to their bell times if SPS does, so they will likely play on the current schedule, which could mean that SPS students have to miss several classes on those game days. How many games per sport per season might that be?

Again, I'm asking to learn and assuming the task force looked at this but haven't really seen it discussed in any detail.
SusanH said…
Yes, everyone wants Tier 2, but if we accept that the schedule MUST be in three tiers, than some kids are just going to have to go to school earlier and some kids are going to have to start later. I think 9:40 start time for middle school is just fine. It makes a lot more sense than that late start time for elementary students, who are often up at 6 am anyway. 9:40 would work beautifully for my 8th grader's natural biorhythm. Now that it's summer and he can listen to his body, he's asleep around 11 pm, and up at 8:30.

As far as all the concern about sports, I don't understand why they can't just schedule those for after school anyway (4:10 - 5:40...?) Or they could happen before school. My son's PE waiver last year was satisfied by neighborhood rec soccer, which didn't practice until 7:30 - 8:30 pm. Getting home at 9:00 pm was really tough given his super early morning, but we all adjusted.

And I believe the middle school schedule is only 10 minutes longer than the elementary school schedule, so it wouldn't result in a "much later release time" than elementary does now...
Anonymous said…
9:40 is too late for middle school to start. It was too late for my then elementary student to start. It is a total joke for life with a job and schedule. School should start by 9 at the very latest. So, a good start time for high school and middle school? Somewhere after 8 and before 9. When my HS kid started at 8 and I had to get her on the bus by 7:05, then get my elementary kid to school by 9:30, that was the longest morning in the world! I am sure some better-organized person could accomplish it better, but for me, it was terrible.
SPS Mom said…
That's the thing - we don't have to accept that the schedule needs to be in 3 tiers. It doesn't.

Anonymous said…
My child participates in a city-wide league where practices and games require showing up from 4:30-4:45. Games can't be later, as they run out of daylight and not all fields have lighting. Players are from a mix of schools, public and private. A 4:10 release would not make it possible to get to practice/games on time, let alone do homework after school. My child's health and well-being are just as important as academics, and activities outside of school provide a good balance - even if it's just having time to ride a bike around the block or kick a soccer ball around the park (not gonna happen in the morning). We already dealt with the horrible 3rd tier elementary times. We've had enough.

-no 9:40
Anonymous said…
I don't see why school sports practices can't be in the morning. Then you can choose whether you want to wake up that early, as opposed to being forced into it, like now.

I agree the best option is a two tier system, but if they are going to insist on this 3 tier system, it sounds pretty tone deaf for k-8 parents to complain about 9 years of 9:40 start time. Right now, most students have an even worse situation, and if we stay with the status quo will continue to have an even worse situation than the one k-8 parents are complaining is so awful they can't possibly be forced into it. Right now it's 9:40 for 6 years at elementary, and then 3 years at 7:50, right when the late start would be beneficial. The proposed change would improve the lives of so many more students at the more minor cost of relatively few, since for investing the time in elementary, they would get a better 9:40 start for middle school.

SPS Mom said…
Sleeper - you misunderstand - as a K-8 parent, I am TOTALLY in support of doing a flip and having the elementary students start earlier and MS/HS start later. It isn't a zero sum game. We can get the K-5 students starting earlier, the MS/HS starting later, AND the K8 students on a reasonable schedule as well. This is about coming up with the best solution for all the kids, not figuring out which kids to throw under the bus (or onto the worse bus schedules)!
Anonymous said…
I agreed up top, and I will here again that the best solution is a two tier bus schedule. I think there are absolutely lies being spread around about how much it would cost. I don't believe it is that much more.

But failing that, what we have now is harming more students than the 3 tier solution with k-8s in tier 3, and we should remedy that. In order to keep the sweet second tier spot you have right now, you are making 90% of Seattle students have a worse schedule for their k-8 years than the one proposed for you, in addition to condemning almost all high school students to a worse start time. That's not right either.

SPS Mom said…
Sleeper - I am in no way advocating things to stay as they are. I have turned in feedback in favor of the modified flip, even if the K8's stay in Tier 3. I would never advocate for "no change" as one of the options. I believe in reasonable start times for all students and argued previously against the elementaries being moved to as late as they were last time around.

The K8 students aren't the problem and if you moved all of the K8 students out of tier 2 this very moment or they disappeared from the equation entirely, it would only help a very small percentage of SPS students - there just aren't that many K8 students. The issue is not a K8 vs. everyone else situation, but that is the lens through which you are seeing it. I'm not sure where your vehemence is from against the K8's, but it isn't serving you well.
Anonymous said…
Sleeper said, I don't see why school sports practices can't be in the morning. Then you can choose whether you want to wake up that early, as opposed to being forced into it, like now.

...because many students participate in sports and activities that are a city-wide mix of private and public school students, and only happen in the afternoons, at a location other than their neighborhood school.

My high school student does not feel the 7:50 start is all that bad. Really. We've adjusted. Getting home at 3:00 is pretty nice.

-no 9:40
Anonymous said…
If you are not disagreeing with me, then my comment was not directed at you. You are not the only person on this thread who has brought up k-8s(read aghasts comment- you must have missed it if my comment did not make sense. I do think it's not cool to advocate for no change to keep the best start only for your own student even if you know what that's doing to everyone else.), and we've been hearing the same argument that k-8s must keep their 8:30 start time no matter what that means for the rest of sps students since the original recommendations came out. As I understand it the issue is the number of buses such that k-8s have to be on the third tier to keep the buses able to spread out, not whether k-8s themselves are a problem.

Of course two tiers would be better. Hoping someone else can better daylight the process. I think they are keeping it as out if the public as possible in order to sneak split shift high schools in using this three tier system

Anonymous said…
Team practices before or after school might work ok for some middle schools, but probably not so well for others. If this comes to pass, there will definitely be winners and losers (and bigger losers).

Hamilton, for instance, doesn't have a field, so students walk about a mile to either Lower Woodland or Meridian for practice, then walk back to school. Practices are long to allow for this, so afternoon practices would likely shift to 4:30-6:30pm. Meridian Park doesn't have lights though, so that would be an additional challenge for part of the year. Morning practices would need to end in time for for those who get school breakfast to do so, so would probably need to be something like 7:15-9:15am. That's early!

I know it's not one of the options they presented, but can someone remind me why high school students couldn't take the latest shift instead, since they also typically have later practices, later curfews, less reliance on parents for transportation, more flexibility (e.g., Running Start), etc.?

But hey, my kids will likely be done with middle school by the time SPS implements something like this, so I'm all for the greater good and nicer high school start times. I'm not advocating for better middle school times on behalf of my own kids, but other kids like them. With a narrow range of grades, middle school was always doomed to lose out in the voting.

Anonymous said…
Two Tiers!!
K8 mom said…
I feel like all of these considerations are forgetting the K-5 kids who are part of a K-8 school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a late start is anything later than 8:30. We have that now in the current tier 2. It's a good middle ground when you have younger students and middle schoolers.

Our school day is 20 min more than the grade school, including the younger kids. So that really makes for a long school day with a 9:40 start and a 4:10 end. Many of those young kids are going to be woken up early one way or another for before school care and then basically you have eaten into family time in the evening because they will still need an early bedtime.

It may be a good plan for some but it's really awful for others.

Anonymous said…
Well, I know one of the teachers, Eng, and I wouldn't trust her any further than I could kick a rock.

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