Towns that have moved start times:
- Sharon’s “one year later report”
- 5 years later viewed as a success
- Students today would “never go back”
Needham Public School District is a small district consisting of six elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school with a student population of 5,476. Under the direction of the superintendent, an advisory body called the School Starting Time Advisory Committee was formed in the fall of 2002 to determine if start times for all schools should be changed to be more compatible with students’ biological rhythms. The committee included one teacher, one administrator and a parent representative from each level, a school committee representative, a school nurse, a 22School Start Time Change: An In-Depth Examination of School Districts in the United States representative from the transportation department, two high school students and the director of the arts department.
The committee reviewed the existing sleep and education research available at the time and conducted surveys of high school teachers regarding the level of alertness of students while in class.
They also surveyed a small sample of students regarding their sleep habits and preferences regarding start times. The committee launched a website to provide information about their activities and encouraged members of the community to provide feedback. The committee also made a concerted effort to contact school districts that had successfully changed their start times and consulted sleep experts, health professionals and The National Institutes of Health.
As a result of their research and fact-finding, the committee concluded that, “the research about the educational and health benefits of a later high school starting time are clear and compelling.” Based on a review of the potential impact on athletics, after-school programs, religious activities, performing arts and transportation, the committee recommended changing the start times later for both primary and secondary schools. The committee developed five options, all of which had the high school start time moving from 7:40 am to 8:05 am, with middle schools either staying at their current time or also moving to 8:05 am, and all elementary schools staying at their current time or starting at 8:45 am. Due to redistricting in 2003, the school board delayed their decision a full year and conducted further community engagement. In 2004, the school board moved start times for all middle and high schools close to the time recommended by the committee with high schools starting at 8:00 am, middle schools starting at 7:50 am, and elementary school starting 15 minutes later, moving from 8:20 am to 8:35 am.
Lessons: Needham Public School District exemplifies many of the strategies used by other districts that have successfully changed their start times. It created a small working group composed of key department members and parent and teacher representatives to collect information on the scientific research (including interviews with sleep experts), to consider the potential impact and develop possible mitigating strategies, and to conduct meetings with stakeholders. The committee carefully studied the issues over a protracted period of time, developed and articulated a compelling rationale for changing the bell schedule and presented a range of options to the community based on an assessment of feasibility.
(Source(s): Needham Public Schools School Starting Time Report and Recommendation, January
listed as a “critical strength” in accreditation self-assessment; “Once the Duxbury school committee concluded that a later start time would be in the students’ best interest, ‘we had to find a way to make it happen,’ Duxbury public schools superintendent Susan Skeiber told JAMA
In the 2011-12 school year, Nauset Regional High School decided to delay the start of school 65 minutes to 8:30 A.M.. “The preliminary findings show that with the 8:30 a.m. start time, there has been a 53 percent drop in the number of failing grades, and the number of days students were suspended for disciplinary reasons dropped from 166 to 19” (Thompson, 1). With this significant of a drop in failing grades and disciplinary action having to be taken against the students, the teachers can now focus on helping the students grow as a class instead of having a few struggling students that cannot keep up.
What changes did they make? What has their experience been?
From Start School Later, Massachusetts activity (working on updating):
Does a Later Start Time for High Schools Matter?
In early October, Bonny Gifford, Superintendent of Falmouth Public Schools, and I met to discuss a later start time for high schools. This concept has been around for years with considerable research, studies, articles, and papers on the topic. The Children’s National Medical Center’s Blueprint for Change Team published an in-depth report in April 2014 examining the school districts in the U.S. that have implemented a later start time for their high schools. Currently, the start time for Barnstable High School is 7:20 A.M. and 7:24 A.M. for Falmouth High School. We came together to discuss the extensive research available, as well as, the pros and cons of having a later start time for high schools.
The Children’s National Medical Center’s Blueprint for Change Team’s Report states that a delay in school start times is key in addressing the epidemic of adolescent sleep loss in the U.S. This sleep loss is attributed to lower academic achievement, higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness, decreased motivation to learn, and increased use of stimulants. There is substantial research supporting a delayed school start time as an effective countermeasure to adolescent sleep loss. Physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement are just a few potential benefits to a later school start time.
As with any change, there are perceived benefits and costs of a school start time change. Several benefits include increased attendance, reduced tardiness, improved standardized test scores, improved grades, higher graduation rates, fewer referrals for disciplinary action, and cost savings for public school system. Some perceived costs with the school start time change are loss of community support, impact on parent work schedules, financial costs, reduction of student involvement in extracurricular activities, and negative impact on teacher schedules. Districts surveys in this report tended to perceive academic-related benefits from adopting a later start time and the concerns did not materialize.
As this topic of conversation continues between Barnstable and Falmouth Public Schools, there are a few lessons learned from other School Districts that have made the change to a later school start time:
- Importance of Leadership
- Education of the Entire Community/Stakeholders
- Logistics and Cost Factor of Transportation
- Athletics and Community Use of Recreational Facilities
- Prioritizing Sleep Health is Important
- Adjustments Take Time
- Anticipation is Often Worse than the Reality
We have just started the conversation on later school start times for our high school. The potential benefits to the health and performance of our high school students is at the forefront of our thoughts and continued discussions. We will keep the students, teachers, community, and stakeholders informed and part of this important discussion.
Exploring the possibility of moving high school start times later (12/4/14)
In response to a recent recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and in the interest of student wellness and achievement, the Superintendent of the Dover, Sherborn, and
DoverSherborn Regional School Districts created a committee to research and explore school start time options, with an emphasis on later school start times for at least the middle and high
school. (Updated 12/1/14)
Exploring the possibility of moving high school start times later (12/4/14)
BOE approves move to 8-8:30 am high school start time beginning in 2014-15 school year. But as of 3/14 still hadn’t found a way to do so and on 4/11/14 had pulled the plug on the plan for any immediate change.
In school year 2011-12, the superintendent proposed moving school start times were moved 20 minutes, to 7:43 a.m.
Weston High School
Superintendent Cheryl Maloney led the charge to shift start time from 7:30am to 8:00am by freeing up free slots during the middle of the day. “It’s not something that can be fixed by saying, well, they should be going to bed earlier,” Erica Cole, a high school assistant principal and a member of the start-time committee, said, adding that research shows students’ bodies and minds do not allow them to “power down” until a certain time. So far efforts have been thwarted by logistical complications. (Updated 12/1/14)