Monday, March 15, 2010

Later Start For MCAS Testing Next Week - Could This Be A Sign Of Things To Come?

I read Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman a short time back after hearing about it from Memorial School Principal Karen Rickershauser. While there were a number of insights for both parents and educators in the book, one that I took away was in regards to a high school in Edina, Minnesota that changed its start time by one hour.

Here is an excerpt on why Edina High School decided to start one hour later:

"The decision to change the Edina High School start time from 7:25 to 8:30 was made in the spring of 1996 and implemented in the 1996-97 school year. The decision was made in response to a request from the Minnesota Medical Association (to all superintendents in Minnesota) to start high schools later, and that was in response to definitive medical research on adolescent sleep patterns from Brown and Johns Hopkins Universities. USA Today states that Edina was the first district in the nation to change start times based on that research."

More than a decade later, it strikes me as odd that a change such as this that is founded upon clear medical research and has concrete data that indicates tremendous gains for students has not been implemented in more schools. A later start time has been proven to increase student achievement dramatically, lower absences, lower the number of students diagnosed with depression and A.D.D. Then again, maybe I am missing something?

Therefore, we will try the late start for a few MCAS days and then analyze our testing results (as we always do) and see if there are any unexplainable positive gains. I will speculate in advance that there will be, especially if students utilize the extra hour for sleep. The next logical step would be a discussion about changing our start time across the board. I know that there would be some hurdles in accomplishing this change in operating procedure, but I do think that it is a discussion worth having.

I will post the MCAS schedule and the projected bus pickup times in the next day or so.


  1. I am a big supporter of a later start time. I remember reading about the original research, and then also about the success the Edina district has had, and I often wondered why we (and other districts) haven't tried this. I am very glad that you are trying this - I just wonder if it is over too brief a period of time to show a real difference. I would not abandon the idea of moving to a later start time, even if this limited experiment doesn't show much improvement.

  2. I teach at a high school in Texas, and we do have less tardies since we went to a later start time. We start at 8:55 now, and have done a gradual shift over the last 17 years from 8:00 am to the 8:55 start time and wouldn't be surprised if we continue slowly shifting to even later.

    I don't know how much the later start time has influenced other things, since we have implemented many other improvements, but we have since academic improvements at the same time.

    For a teacher it isn't bad either. I can frequently get in and out of an medical appointment at 8:00 am and still get to school by 8:55, but always have someone on stand by, just in case.

    It does make seeing a specialist harder since they also seem to keep 9:00 am to 4:00 times.

  3. One of our local school districts tried to make the start times later for high school students two years ago. Unfortunately, the school board wouldn't sign off on the plan because they felt it would make it harder for students to find after school jobs and it would be difficult for employers to cover that extra hour students couldn't work because of school getting out an hour later. In passing, it was mentioned that it would be difficult for some families to find child care, but the definite concern was about the after school. Apparently to the school board, jobs at McDonald's were more important than student achievement.

  4. As a parent, I have long considered it outrageous for high school students to be up, washed, dressed, fed, and out the door in order to catch the school bus at 6:45 a.m. Some students have to be out there as early as 6:30 a.m.! I'm told what drives this is the after-school athletic schedule. Seriously??

  5. I think it's a bit optimistic to believe that making a change in start time for MCAS will make a big difference in MCAS scores as a result of an extra hour of sleep. However, over time, if students are allowed to follow their natural body ryhthm (for teens going to sleep later and waking up later)and go to school accordingly, I think we would see an improvement as our students are improving their health and well being by getting the sleep they need and not being sleep deprived. If the science is there, why wait for MCAS, follow the success of Edina and let's get the ball rolling.... obviously, during this economic climate some of the part=time work issue won't be on the table. But I can imagine that the entire sports/extracurricular challenge will be just that... a big challenge. Not to mention barriers/concerns related to the teachers contract...

  6. Hopefully, we will try this idea on tests which the scores don't make the news. If MCAS is important enough to change schedules for optimal results, then this should be the standard for all mid-year and final tests. These, not the MCAS, are the scores that follow our children to college. We should be working toward the best possible opportunities for the best possible scores for these tests, as well.

  7. The only problem I see is the traffic in town. Whoever is directing at the high school entrance needs to keep traffic going SOUTH moving at a better pace.....Traffic was backed up to Papa Gino's on Cambridge Street.