Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shocker! - Another Study Shows Teens Benefit From Later School Day -

Back in March I read Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman and I was intrigued about the research findings on the impact of a later school start on teenagers.  I am not surprised to see that the results of a similar study are also quite positive as highlighted in an article in today's Boston Globe - Study shows teens benefit from later school day.

Here is an excerpt from Nurture Shock that I shared in my post back in March that discusses Edina High School in Minnesota and the school's decision to change it start time by 65 minutes.

"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?

At BHS, we implemented a later start time on state testing days this year to give our students the benefit of an extra hour.  I am hoping that we can start a serious discussion in Burlington this year on a later start time throughout the school year.  


  1. I read this story yesterday and immediately thought of our conversation about how you were going to have a delayed start to the school day during testing. How do you feel the experiment went? Did you see an improvement in test scores? Did attendance improve? Did you have less discipline issues?

  2. You know, we were just talking about this the other day. There are definitely pros and cons on this topic. Judging from the overall lethargy from my own kids each and every morning, I would concur that we would benefit from a later start time. Like most students, they're so busy with hmwk and extra curricular activities. It seems that each of the activities in our house tend to coincide with other activities. We're always rushing against the time.On some days, we have three activities going on simultaneously. It's hard getting to the various destinations on time. From Sept. through June, we're basically running non-stop. By the time that we all come home, it's late, and the kids still have unfinished hmwk. They go to bed so late. Our town had an early middle school start. Our kids were on the bus at 6:40 am each day. They barely exit the house each day fully awake. I've often said that they would have benefited from a later start. On the flip side of this issue..... a later start means a later exit from school. I kind of liked the idea of having them home before 3 pm each day. It gave more flexibility before running to and fro from 3 pm until later that afternoon or night.

  3. In Texas, I suspect a large part of the problem that districts have with a later start day revolves around extracurricular athletics--other extracurricular activities as well, but sports programs hold great influence over decisionmaking in these parts!

    A later start day means that athletic events would either need to be pushed back an extra hour per day, or it would be very difficult to get teams to "away" games on time w/o losing even more class time due to early dismissals.

    I don't assert that this is the only reason for reluctance to change, but I suspect it plays a large part in my state districts.

  4. Patrick...
    It's unfortunate that we use research in special circumstances (testing) but that research doesn't carry over to everyday practice. This thing we call "school" is such a machine that the pace of change is glacial, even with evidence that a new idea is worthwhile and beneficial to kids. I often say that the institution of school often get's in the way of its purpose, and here is a prime example. When faced with the prospect of starting later, the reasons not to are often centered on extra-curricular activities, work schedules, or home demands. At some point, we need to realize that learning IS the priority for k-12 students and that these other items, all important, need to be shifted to meet the learning demands of our students.

  5. Rural Saskatchewan schools start at 9:00 because of the need for busing. The students still have to rise early to catch the bus. I would have guessed that a 10:00 start time might be the best for older adolescents.