CDC on Later Start Times for Middle/High School Students

Thanks to reader, Alison, for this info from the CDC MMWR (Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report) of August 7, 2015.

School Start Times for Middle School and High School Students — 
United States, 2011–12 School Year

Anne G. Wheaton, PhD1; Gabrielle A. Ferro, PhD1; Janet B. Croft, PhD1
Adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight (1); not engage in daily physical activity (2); suffer from depressive symptoms (2); engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco, and using illicit drugs (2); and perform poorly in school (3). However, insufficient sleep is common among high school students, with less than one third of U.S. high school students sleeping at least 8 hours on school nights (4) 

 In a policy statement published in 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urged middle and high schools to modify start times as a means to enable students to get adequate sleep and improve their health, safety, academic performance, and quality of life (5). AAP recommended that “middle and high schools should aim for a starting time of no earlier than 8:30 a.m.” 

Among an estimated 39,700 public middle, high, and combined schools* in the United States, the average start time was 8:03 a.m. Overall, only 17.7% of these public schools started school at 8:30 a.m. or later. The percentage of schools with 8:30 a.m. or later start times varied greatly by state, ranging from 0% in Hawaii, Mississippi, and Wyoming to more than three quarters of schools in Alaska (76.8%) and North Dakota (78.5%). A school system start time policy of 8:30 a.m. or later provides teenage students the opportunity to achieve the 8.5–9.5 hours of sleep recommended by AAP (5) and the 8–10 hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation (6).


Anonymous said…
The School and Staffing Survey, the data source referenced in the CDC start time report, is much more interesting when you see the percent distribution of start times.

2011-12 (all public high schools, but includes some 7-9 grades):

before 7:30 - 9.5%
7:30 to 7:59 - 33.0%
8:00 to 8:29 - 43.1%
8:30 to 8:59 - 10.6%
9:00 or later - 3.8%

SPS used to have an 8:00 high school start. 43% of high schools had a start between 8:00 and 8:29. Notice how many start at 9:00 or later - 3.8%....because any later is too late.

dan dempsey said…
Surprised me about Hawaii at 0%. At a low latitude they would not have to be concerned with our short daylight winter hours. It would seem to be easy to start later, or are Hawaiian teens so laid-back they can easily fall asleep at earlier hours.

Alaska and North Dakota may need late starts to get vehicles thawed and moving.

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
To me the problem with the proposed SPS bell time changes are the middle school times: 9:40am-4:10pm is ridiculously late. This pretty much means no afternoon activities for middle schoolers anymore and homework after dinner (probably until late at night). I would like to know how many other school districts start their middle schools (or any schools) after 9:30 am (probably none). And where is the research that 9:40am is a "healthy" start time? The middle schoolers are really the ones that are being thrown under the bus here.

- SPS Parent
Anonymous said…
Sunset in Hawaii does not change much during the year; same with sunrise. I think people are more on a natural cycle there. When I lived there we did not eat late in the evening, and most people got up early before it got too hot. So if you wanted to go jogging you did it before sunrise. Ancient history for me, just my guesses.
Anonymous said…
Anyone who thinks school should start any later than 9:15 probably either has zero or one child in school, and no work schedule to adhere to. I also don't think it should start earlier than 8:15 for MS or HS.
Anonymous said…
I have 3 in school, work, and think it should start later than 9:15, if two tiers is off the table. I do think it's ridiculous for elementary school students to start at 9:30 and end at 3:40. Those parents are most affected by work schedule issues (I agree 10 am is insane for most people to begin work, and only possible for the most privileged, but some middle schoolers are able to get themselves off to school so parents can work. No elementary school students can). Also young elementary students rise significantly earlier than middle school students naturally, and are past optimum learning time long before they get out (walk into a kindergarten classroom at 3 pm someday...). 7:50 would be an ideal start time for elementary student learning and for the vast majority of working parents and certainly our less privileged ones.

There are lights for after school activities, and some can be before school. If the only way we are cramming in as many after school activities as we are right now is by denying our middle schoolers enough sleep to function, then we are doing it wrong.

Two tiers would clearly be better, but if we have to pick someone to go at 9:40, it should be the middle schoolers, NOT the elementary students.

Anonymous said…
As was explained in earlier posts, the city's sports fields are shared by all ages. After a certain time, the fields are supposed to be available for community sports. It's not just a matter of having lights, it's a matter of scheduling the fields for multiple groups. Staying physically fit - for many that is through organized sports - is just as important as getting a good night's sleep. For some students, sports are what keep them in school and force them to keep their grades up.

I know very few parents who would support a 9:40 start for middle school. It's bad enough for elementary students with working parents, but for middle school students it shifts a longer school day even later. The current proposal is really just shifting the problem. The problem is the three tier schedule. Start times were not an issue when we had a two tier bus schedule. To institute a disruptive and expensive change (modified flip) when it's still a lousy solution makes little sense.

-no 9:40
Anonymous said…
Participation in sports declines as students don't get enough sleep. Requiring students to go to school too early is cutting off sports' nose to spite its face.

The fields are available for community use only after the schools are done with them. If schools are done with them later, the community use start time shifts later. School land is primarily for educating students- that is its first, most important use, and community desire for sports fields must come after. Practices can be before school for those who really need so many hours of extra curricular activity time. Then it can be a choice, not something foisted on everyone for the benefit of a very few.

The current solution does shift the problem(I agree with you that it should be two tiers), but at least it shifts it to the people better able to bear it, and improves outcomes for all over the current system.

Anonymous said…
sleeper said, The current solution does shift the problem(I agree with you that it should be two tiers), but at least it shifts it to the people better able to bear it, and improves outcomes for all over the current system.

* There is no guarantee it will improve outcomes, and a start as late as 9:40 could actually have negative outcomes. It's even possible there could be no measurable difference with the change. We really don't know, do we? The studies on start times were about shifting to times mostly between 8:00 and 9:00. The impacts of a 9:40 start on middle school students will be different from the impacts of a 9:40 start on elementary students. Middle school students may be in charge of younger siblings while parents are still at work or have more afterschool activities (including afterschool tutoring, which would be limited with a later release).

* Why would middle school students be better able to "bear it?"

* It is not better for all, as very few want to be on that third tier (perhaps teachers and staff included - a 4:20 release means teachers need to be at school until 4:50 or so). The modified flip still leaves a large number of students with a third tier start. I haven't seen the numbers, but would the number of students in the third tier increase, decrease, or stay about the same with the modified flip? With a modified flip, all middle schoolers would on the 9:40 start, as opposed to only a portion of elementary schools, but elementary schools cover a larger grade span.

-no 9:40
Anonymous said…
@Sleeper, exercise is not something "foisted on everyone for the benefit of a very few". Everyone needs exercise, including middle schoolers. Glad to know that the proposed school start times (8am for elem. school, 9:40am for middle school) would work for you, but please do not assume that every family is like yours. It won't work for us.

- SPS Parent
Anonymous said…
Exercise can still be had with 9:40 start times. A few practices will have to be moved- those are the kids currently benefiting from earlier middle school start times, along with supportive, privileged families who are able to arrange their lives such that sometimes their kids can get enough sleep.

Most families are not like mine. Most families are much less privileged than mine and have been paying far too much for childcare, and having bad academic outcomes forced on their children, by start times contraindicated by an incredible wealth of science, for years now. Of course this will be harder for some families to switch, and those families will naturally be more vocal(since they feel like they are "losing" something), and they are generally more privileged. But the current situation is harder on more families, and less privileged families, in addition to being bad for learning.

This switch is researched based, increases academic outcomes for low and high income students, is easier on working families, and because the increase in academic outcome is higher in lower income students, actually shrinks the achievement gap. How many other cost neutral changes can we say do that? So many of the changes we consider are zero sum, and this actually helps everyone. Even if you don't technically agree with the start time switch- that something this clear has a hard time getting through the system that is our downtown bureaucracy is terrifying. The districts prime directive is to educate students, and this flip does that better in every way. The district is not and should not be beholden to community sports teams. What when we have to make actual hard choices?

no- I just saw your questions. Elementary students are better able to bear an early start time than middle schoolers, and families of middle school students are better able to bear a late start time with work schedules because of the relative independence of middle schoolers. The science is incredibly clear- outcomes improve with later start times. The number of students on the third tier would decrease slightly with this flip, at my count, but those number are always iffy. It is about the same. I cannot imagine that the proportion of middle school teachers who would dislike leaving school at 4:50 is meaningfully higher than the proportion who dislike getting to school at 7:20. And even if it is- that is not the criteria we should actually be using, aside from getting their advice as professionals. I have never heard a secondary teacher say their students learn well before 8 am, but I have heard many of them say they learn poorly then.

Eric B said…
So the problem is that 3 tiers appears to be non-negotiable at this point, due to state reimbursement policy for transportation. So somebody is going to start at 9:30-ish and get out between 3:30 and 4. I'll agree that this is not a great thing for anyone. So the real question is who is least harmed by the late start.

Or we elect a school board that is willing to tell Transportation that the extra cost of two tiers is worth it.
Anonymous said…
Middle school students who want to get up early can exercise before school. Some kids are like that. I see a mother & daughter run past my house every morning at 5:30. Changing school start times does not decrease the number of hours available for exercise. Most middle schoolers need later start times than most elementary schoolers do. Those who don't can still get up & do homework or read or exercise or work on their scout award or whatever. But the majority of students whose body clocks punish them for getting up early will also have a choice of doing what is best for their bodies.

So why pick on middle school if we must have 3 tiers? Well it impacts each family for the shortest time possible. Minimum three years vs. four or six for one thing. Also middle school schedules are less tight than high schoolers who are also old enough to work.

Frankly my teens would have been happier starting at noon & getting exercise & some homework out of the way first. In fact I know a lot of college students who try to avoid all morning classes. It seems funny that we can't even stomach 9:30.

-HS Parent
Anonymous said…
The science is incredibly clear- outcomes improve with later start times.

Some data has shown improved outcomes for some students, but not at a start time comparable to the 9:40 start being proposed. It is not clear what impact a 9:40 start would have on middle school students. There is no data comparing outcomes for such a late start. You can't extrapolate the existing data and assume benefits will be had with what is almost a two hour shift in schedules. There is a point of diminishing returns. It could be just as bad for middle school students as it is for elementary students.

-questionable science
Lynn said…
Maybe we will be able to afford two tiers. Here's what the plaintiffs in the McCleary case have to say about transportation funding:

The State’s new transportation funding formula is a meaningful improvement, and the State’s tautological argument that it funds the new funding formula it funds is correct.
But as the State knows from the prior filings in this case, its new formula does not fund a school district’s current transportation costs.107 Instead, the State’s new formula funds a district’s cost last year or the statewide average cost last year – whichever is less.108 The State’s own analysis accordingly confirmed as far back as March 2013 that fully funding the State’s new transportation funding formula does not fully fund its school districts’ transportation costs.109

This Court’s January 2012 decision clearly told States officials that funding less than the districts actual transportation costs is not constitutional compliance: “If the State’s funding formulas provide only a portion of what it actually costs a school to...get kids to school,... the legislature cannot maintain that it is fully funding basic education”.110 This Court’s January 2014 Order reiterated yet again that the State cannot declare “full funding” if its formula leaves actual costs unfunded.11

State’s transportation “plan”.

Declaring “full funding” of this year’s transportation costs by paying last year’s costs is not full funding. [See graph in Appendix J.] For example, plaintiffs doubt the State would claim it can “fully fund” the 11% pay raise legislators got in the 2015-2017 budget by paying those legislators their last year’s salary instead.112

The State assured this Court at the September Show Cause Hearing that the State’s 2015 legislature would focus on raising revenue. And with respect to transportation, it did. It raised several billion dollars of new revenue for transportation – but then directed that new revenue to matters outside of the State’s paramount education funding duty.113

Plaintiffs respectfully submit that “continue disregarding actual transportation costs” is not the type of complete implementation plan and full funding phase-in that complies with this Court’s January 2014 Order.
Lynn said…
Are of you who are arguing that the modified flip is not acceptable saying that you would prefer the current schedule? Those are the only options I expect the superintendent will be considering.
Anonymous said…
I would love an earlier elementary start time that would avoid before care in addition to after care for most kids of working parents. It was a key factor in our family deciding to have a parent stay at home since that degree of transitions would have been very hard on our child with special needs and finding reliable childcare for an hour and a half or so is basically impossible.

I don't know what most of the country does, but I did middle school from 9:15-3:45 years and years ago. It was widely accepted as the best way to fit 3 tiers of transportation in. High school started early (7:20) to allow for long sports practices/games and/or part time jobs, elementary at 8:10 so most parents could drop off and then still make it to work by 9 and then middle school at 9:15 since the kids could mostly get themselves off to school in time (most were woken up by parents before the parents left) and then there was a pretty short amount of time after school to be a latch key kid. Sports still happened after school, but since they were in middle school, practices were shorter - maybe 1 hour vs 2 in high school. Talking to some old friends, they've dropped to 2 tiers now by getting rid of almost all of the middle schools and making every school a K-8.

NE Parent
ProSleep Mom said…
I'm hoping the Superintendent will also consider putting K8s in Tier 2; this plan would give 100% of students start times that align with the typical sleep/wake patterns of their age group. Having elementary kids at 8:50 is not best for their learning.

People wondered about the science related to 9:40 starts- and there is currently a large study being done in England with start times moving from 8:50 to 10 am. The smaller pilot study has had great results:

From a BBC Report: "He also highlighted the results of a small trial at Monkseaton High School in North Tyneside where school start times were shifted from 08:50 to 10:00. This led to an increase in the percentage of pupils getting five good GCSEs from about 34% to about 50%.
Among disadvantaged pupils, the increase had been from about 19% to about 43%, he said.
Now in the wider, year-long study starting next September, Year 10 and 11 pupils at more than 100 schools will be divided into two groups, with one starting school at 10:00, and the other following the usual school timetable."

GCSE are considered very rigorous exams; the improvements with really late starts are quite dramatic, particularly for disadvantaged students. If we want our kids to do well in a competitive world economy, let's support them with aligned schedules.

The district has changed schedules before with little notice and no engagement- and people adapted, because they had to. We can do this intelligent change, and adapt as needed- for the future of all these kids.
ProSleep Mom said…
Oops- typo- should be "having elementary students at 9:40 is not best for their learning"

And I would love Two Tiers- but I don't think the current board will approve that- they had specified that options should be at least close to cost neutral. Two tiers won't cost what they are saying (10-18 million) but it probably would cost around $5-6 million

Our current system, per the District, is effectively 2.24 Tiers. We should be able to move K8s to tier 2 and still be neutral or quite likely save money, if we route for efficiency and not just the status quo.
Anonymous said…
I have a middle school student and an elementary school student. My elementary school student is on the 9:30 start time schedule, and it was a pain until the student was old enough to walk to and stay at the bus stop solo, because someone needed to provide supervision. That child is up in plenty of time to be at school much earlier.

My middle school student is basically a textbook kid from sleep research. Impossible to get up for the 7:40 middle school start time, and impossible to get to sleep early enough to make that time work (not for lack of trying on either our part or the student's part). A 9:40 start time? We'd be all over that, and that is with extracurricular activities aplenty. The number of times my kid has missed something active because the kid was simply too exhausted from getting up early is embarrassing.

As a family with both, our lives would improve markedly with flipped start times.

--sleepless in Seattle
Anonymous said…
A study suggesting negative effects of earlier start times for elementary students:

In KY, elementary schools with fewer FRL students had worse academic outcomes when they had earlier start times, while elementary schools with higher FRL populations were less likely to show better outcomes with later start times. They hypothesized that the number of risk factors for the low income students was so high that later start times had little impact. The final discussion suggests that early start times may be just as bad for younger students as for adolescents.

Anonymous said…
In the "modified flip" option, has there been discussion of which elementary schools would be 1st tier and which would be 2nd tier? Would the 3rd tier elementary schools be shifted to 1st tier (7:50), while the current 2nd tier would remain in the 2nd tier (8:40)? Or would all elementary schools shift up one tier - 3rd tier to 2nd tier, and 2nd tier to 1st tier?

The 2015-16 Arrival/Departure times show which schools are currently in each tier:

Anonymous said…
It seems to me that the feasibility of the middle school 9:40 start time is dependent upon a lot of variables that...vary...from school to school.

At some schools it very well may be possible to provide sufficient PE and afterschool sports opportunities on campus within a reasonable period. Practices could be shortened to 1 hr as someone suggested above, running from 4:30-5:30. Not too bad. And if the schools are small enough that everyone can get their physical activity needs met via school PE or school teams, great. It may still be a challenge to do non-school-based extracurriculars (e.g., that dance class you usually take from 4-6pm? Sorry!), but some people apparently consider work-life balance for middle schoolers a luxury.

At other of SPS's middle schools, however, the 9:40 start time becomes much more problems. First of all, if you have a large school with no athletic fields, for example, you can't possibly provide the state-mandated PE classes for everyone. These schools NEED large numbers of kids to obtain PE waivers--which they currently do through extracurricular sports. But these schools often can't provide access to school sports teams for everyone, either--there are just too many kids that want to be on the teams, and not enough spots--so many kids have to get their PE waiver via non-school athletics. Which means they need to be available to attend those classes and practices. As noted elsewhere, many non-school activities for this age group run 4-5pm or 4:30-6pm, because older teens have the later slots. You can't just shift everything later, it doesn't work that way.

A second challenge is that moving to shorter 1-hr practices doesn't work for schools that don't have fields, since they may spend 45 minutes of "practice" in transit to/from their practice fields. Unless they start a new middle school "walking to the park" league, they need long practices or there's no point. So practices would need to run about 4:30-6:30pm.

So why exactly does it have to be uniform, with all middle schools on the same schedule? Everyone's not on the same schedule now, right? What about if schools with sufficient PE and sports teams slots and facilities go to the later schedule since they can make it work, while schools that cannot reasonably provide the required PE or waiver options stick with an earlier schedule that allows community resources to fill in?

Lynn said…
HF - every middle school started at 7:50 last year.
Anonymous said…
Yes, Lynn, but I don't think we had consistent times across all levels (e.g., high school), and we didn't have them across all middle schools a couple years ago. Even if we did, is there a strong case that alignment of schedules is more important than access to required physical education?


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