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Early start times in middle school/high school... anyone else?

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

I'm not often on this board, so maybe this subject has been done to death, but as my son just started 6th grade I wondered if anyone else thinks starting school really early in the morning is pointless, and if anyone's successfully petitioned their school board about it.  My son's middle school starts at 7:33 (not sure why the random time).  Elementary started at 8:45.  We're not very late sleepers, so it's not that we need to lie about for hours, but I just don't see how it's academically beneficial to make pre-adolescents and teens get up when it's still dark out, and hit the books seriously at 7:30 in the morning!  (even typing it out, it just sounds ridiculous).  I've read several studies that support that it's not biologically a good idea to support such a schedule at this age of growth, and that it's not beneficial to learning.  At all.  And that schools that have implemented a later start time have seen higher test scores. 

 

I guess there is some blather about bus schedules.  But in that case, switch the elementary kids with the older kids.  Little kids go to bed earlier and are up earlier anyway.  Or how about starting the whole school system itself later.  I'm not talking drastically later, but the planet wouldn't stop going 'round if 10 year olds didn't have to get up when it's still dark out!

 

I've heard one or two parents around me pretend to groan about getting up so early, but generally everyone in my town's happy as a clam about it.  No one would dare question a system set in place forever.  But if the system doesn't make sense and NO one has bothered to provide a good reason why it makes sense academically, I start to have a problem. 

post #2 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by MissLotus View Post

I'm not often on this board, so maybe this subject has been done to death, but as my son just started 6th grade I wondered if anyone else thinks starting school really early in the morning is pointless, and if anyone's successfully petitioned their school board about it.  My son's middle school starts at 7:33 (not sure why the random time).  Elementary started at 8:45.  We're not very late sleepers, so it's not that we need to lie about for hours, but I just don't see how it's academically beneficial to make pre-adolescents and teens get up when it's still dark out, and hit the books seriously at 7:30 in the morning!  (even typing it out, it just sounds ridiculous).  I've read several studies that support that it's not biologically a good idea to support such a schedule at this age of growth, and that it's not beneficial to learning.  At all.  And that schools that have implemented a later start time have seen higher test scores. 

 

I guess there is some blather about bus schedules.  But in that case, switch the elementary kids with the older kids.  Little kids go to bed earlier and are up earlier anyway.  Or how about starting the whole school system itself later.  I'm not talking drastically later, but the planet wouldn't stop going 'round if 10 year olds didn't have to get up when it's still dark out!

 

I've heard one or two parents around me pretend to groan about getting up so early, but generally everyone in my town's happy as a clam about it.  No one would dare question a system set in place forever.  But if the system doesn't make sense and NO one has bothered to provide a good reason why it makes sense academically, I start to have a problem. 

 

No experience as far as my kids goes but when I was in high school school started at 7:02am. The bus came at 6:17. The reason was they needed to be able to use the busses all day. The busses ran from 6am to 8pm. It went high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, primary schools, half day kindergarten drop off, high school drop off, middle school drop off, elementary school drop off, high school after school activities drop off, middle school after school activities drop off, drop off from any sports that went later. It was a big district and with voters getting older and less willing to pay higher school taxes they had to use the busses all day rather than buy more and hire more drivers.

 

I want to say the primary schools (PK-2nd) had the latest start time at around 9:30 but then the kids were in school until 4:30 and wouldn't get dropped off by the bus until 5pm or later, leaving very little family time and really no time for any activities other than school. 

 

I'm not sure if you could get it changed. As kids get older they're more likely to have after school activities or, in the case of high schoolers, have jobs. This means many people won't want the schedule later for older kids.

 

Not all little kids go to bed early and get up early. I big reason why we're homeschooling now is because the school started too early for my little ones.

 

If the schedule is really a problem you could look for a private school with a later start time or consider homeschooling.

post #3 of 38

This is actually a longstanding, controversial, & frustrating national issue, and one that local groups have tried to resolve, mainly unsuccessfully, since the 1990s. You'd be hard-pressed to find a health professional, sleep scientist, or educator familiar with the vast literature on the subject who would defend these very early start times as good for kids. In fact, there's voluminous research that starting class as early as many schools now do is both counterproductive and dangerous - so much so that it seems negligent to let things continue as they are. 

 

Even so, efforts to return to more traditional start times usually fail because vested interests and myth almost always trump the best interests of kids. The solution may require collective action, probably on a national scale. That's the thinking behind a growing grassroots effort to raise awareness about what is really an issue of public health, safety, and equity.  For more information, see www.StartSchoolLater.net and our online petition (tinyurl.com/82leprpasking national leaders to support a minimum school start time, which would not dictate hours to local schools but simply make it easier for local schools to prioritize health, safety, and learning.

post #4 of 38

It's been in the news a good deal in our area. Some of the private schools have been able to offer later starts because they either don't bus or they have their own private bussing system. Much depends on the make-up of a district too. My local district only goes through 8th grade and only has 8 campuses. Their schools start anywhere from 7:30 to 8:57. My own kids never went to school earlier than 8:20 through 8th grade because our schools are in the center of the district. However, the high schools are their own district. With 10 high schools spread out over a whole east portion of the county, bussing is complicated and someone does have to start early. My DD went to a out-of-district high across the county that started at 7:15 (she had to be up at 5:30 to get there.) 200 schools used that bussing system. It was brutal and I'm grateful to transfer her to a new program that doesn't start until 9 this year.

 

So yes, bussing is a real issue. I know at the high school level (and in our area, the middle schools too,) timing competitive sports with other schools is an issue. The later a school starts, the more school athletes miss. Childcare is an issue too. Many elementary schools try to be the most helpful to working families. Some offer "before care"  at a fee but others don't and having their child start at 9 is a hardship. 

 

I know some schools are offering the option of a later start day but the kids lose an elective (because they aren't taking a 1st period.)

 

I do agree with you. The studies agree with you. I certainly have a teenager that agrees with you. It can just be complicated to change.

post #5 of 38

Sounds familiar. But what we've found (by talking to people from all over the country who are facing similar challenges) is that where there's a will there's a way. Communities that have the will to change ultimately find ways to prioritize health & learning by thinking out of the box, questioning assumptions about the way things "have to be." They learn to think about healthy school start times as no more negotiable than heating the schools when the temperature drops. (See http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/05/16/31snider.h31.html?tkn=TNOFMKpCmFBd%2FGUP9T%2FMj%2F2CmeBUG%2FwUXqzn&intc=es ) Given the state of the research on this subject, it seems negligent to me to think about school hours any other way!

 

Start School Later has put together a list of schools from 21 states around the USA who have managed to find ways to send students to school at later, healthier hours: http://www.startschoollater.net/success-stories.html . This is a change whose time has come, but we first have to "wake up" decision-makers to the serious health, safety, learning, equity, and even economic consequences of balancing school budgets on the backs of our kids.

post #6 of 38

Around here schools start as early as possible because of the weather- heat.  High schools start at 720 and are done at 220, K-8 schools start at either 800 or 840 and are done at 300 or 340.  The 840-340 schools are very HOT, those extra 40 mins really make a different in the Arizona heat.  High school kids would willingly start an hour earlier if the district would allow it.

 

In my area most high school kids are pulling down a full time job in addition to school.  School runs on a block schedule which means instead of classes running all year they are 90 mins classes and run for a semester.  

post #7 of 38

I completely agree with you.

 

I know it is complicated, I know bussing is an issue, and I know teens will have less time for extra-curriculars after school - however, the pros still outweigh the cons for a later start time for teens, IMHO.

post #8 of 38

I guess my kids should think themselves lucky! DD's HS starts at 8.05 (ends at 3.20) and DS's middle school starts at 8.40 (finishes at 3.30). Most middle schools in our our school district have a 10.00 start on Wednesdays (not DS's school though), and DD has a block day on Thursday, so school, for her, begins at 9.45. For us, a later start would cause problems, DD has to rush to get to climbing by 4.00 via the city bus, and I have a minimum of a 40 minute drive to get DS to soccer practice by 5.00.

post #9 of 38
My kids have an 8:30 start time. It's a private school with no buses.

The kids in our neighborhood who attend public high school need to be out for the bus at 6:45. I'm not sure what time school starts for them. It's crazy.

The buses here work all day. We have half day kindergarten and they do 2 rounds at the end of the day for high school - one when classes are over, and then an "activities bus". Parents love the activities bus because it means that kids with single parents or 2 career parents can easily be involved in the wonderful sports and clubs at the school.
post #10 of 38

Wow.. My son just started 6th grade and his start time is 9:30 am. Granted he doesn't get off the bus to come home till 4:20. I thought this was the norm for MS ( I know HS kids are very early.. so I guess around here it's HS, ES and then MS?)
 

post #11 of 38

I think all schools here start close to 9am.

One highschool just did a two year trial for a study for an even later start time of 10am

http://www.tdsb.on.ca/wwwdocuments/about_us/external_research_application/docs/ECCI%20Late%20Start%20Summary%20Brief_FINAL.PDF

post #12 of 38

I think there's more to it than the bussing issue for many areas.  It's about parents being able to get their kids to school.  Many parents work, and need to get their child to school before 8am.  In areas where kids can't reasonably walk to the bus stop, or if there is no bus to the school, and not a city bus option, what do you do?  For example, my kids take a bus to school, and the bus stop is 3 miles from our house.  Once you get to middle school, there isn't care available prior to school starting like there is in elementary school.  At least that's the case around here.  Several schools in the area, mainly middle and high schools, have looked into later start times, and some have succeeded, but many can't solely b/c the parents said "no way".  It wouldn't work for their schedules.  And even at the schools that have implemented later start times (which are usually 1-2 days/wk) it's a real struggle for many families b/c of the issue of what to do w/a child if you can't take them to the bus or school before you leave for work.  

post #13 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by neptunemama View Post

  And even at the schools that have implemented later start times (which are usually 1-2 days/wk) it's a real struggle for many families b/c of the issue of what to do w/a child if you can't take them to the bus or school before you leave for work.  

Are the problems not the same at the end of the day?

 

In any event, if the issue comes down to "what is best for kids" versus "what is best for parents"  I think schools need to come down on the kids side.  The parents will adjust, albeit with some grumblings.  School is not a paid babysitter.

post #14 of 38

In our township, the public elementary schools start around 8, middle school starts around 9 (which is awesome for kids that age), but then high school (when the average kid wants to stay up - and wake up - even later than in MS), start time is around 7!  That means catching the bus at "O-dark-thirty", as they say.  It worked beautifully for me, because I always woke up super-early.  But I was really weird.  It's an awful schedule, for most teens.

 

I do think high schools have a dilemma, because many kids have sports, clubs, or work after school, so school can't end too late.

 

My oldest two are in a Catholic high school with a new "bell schedule", which I LOVE.  It might be worth proposing to your school board.  If you've never heard of a bell schedule (I hadn't, before last year):

 

* Kids enroll in the usual 7 classes per semester, but they only attend 5 or 6 classes per day.

 

* Every Monday, classes start an hour late (wonderful, after the weekend).  Kids attend the 1st 5 classes on their schedules.  Kids who are struggling may show up at the regular time, for an hour of free tutoring before school begins.

 

* Tuesdays - Thursdays have a regular start time and kids attend 6 classes per day.  They just keep cycling through classes #1-7 on their schedules.  So Tuesdays they have #6, 7, then 1-4.  Wed., #5-7, then 1-3.  Thurs., #4-7, then 1 & 2.

 

* Every Friday ends an hour early (which high schoolers love).  They attend 5 classes:  #3-7.

 

* In the middle of each school day, they have lunch and a 35-minute study hall, during which they can get tutoring or go to a music room to practice their instrument, meet with their Student Council committee, etc.

 

* So, each week kids attend each of their 7 classes 4 times.  [(5 classes x 2 days) + (6 classes x 3 days) = 28 total class periods per week.]  But kids spend longer in each class period than they did, when they used to attend all 7 classes every day.  So there's more continuous instructional time...but not TOO much!  Their middle school experimented with a block schedule, where kids attended classes every other day, but stayed in each class for 2 hours.  It sounded great, but most teachers couldn't hold the kids' attention that long and ended up using a lot of class time for reading or assignments, so kids rarely had homework.  They wound up with less instructional time than if they had attended each class every day, for 1 hour.

 

* Another good thing about bell schedules is that no class is always first thing in the morning, or always right after lunch, or always last period of the day.  If kids have "good" or "bad" times of the day, in terms of concentration, those get distributed among all their classes, each week.

 

* It's also nice socially:  Their school has 3 lunch periods and when you attend lunch is determined by which teacher's class you're in, mid-day.  So your lunch period varies in the course of the week.  If your kid doesn't have lunch with her best friend Monday, she almost certainly will, by Friday.  Kids are forced to mingle a bit and not just sit with the same, safe clique every day.  Since everyone is in that boat, kids are surprisingly receptive to including another kid at their table, who doesn't have any close friends in that lunch period.

 

I know the schedule sounds confusing - and it really is, the first week or two.  But if my Autistic, learning-disabled sons can adapt to this schedule and thrive, ANY middle- or high-school kid can figure it out.  And my kids have never once complained that they didn't know where to go.  Honestly, I took longer to figure it out, than they did.


Edited by VocalMinority - 9/9/12 at 9:00pm
post #15 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

Are the problems not the same at the end of the day?

 

In any event, if the issue comes down to "what is best for kids" versus "what is best for parents"  I think schools need to come down on the kids side.  The parents will adjust, albeit with some grumblings.  School is not a paid babysitter.

 

 

But that just is not reality where I live. By high school, very, very few stay at home moms are around.

 

The public elementary schools offer both before and after care. Many parents I know try to avoid before care because it's a bit bleak -- a bunch of sleepy kids eating breakfast from the cafeteria and waiting for everyone else to get there. After care tends to be much better -- playing, games, homework, etc.

 

It's not really about "what is best for parents" but what can actually work. This isn't about grumbling -- for many families, this is about paying rent and buying food.

 

But with highschoolers, it's a different deal. Some highschoolers can get off to school on their own. But many can't. Some highschoolers NEED a parent around to ensure they get their day started. Super late start times wouldn't provide many teens with the supervision they require to be successful. Afternoon time in a school activity or even unsupervised is a whole different ball of wax than a teen getting up, ready for school, and getting there with no adult.

 

The fallout for many kids would be truancy and the associated problems, and the parents wouldn't even hear about it until later in the day or later in the year.

post #16 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

It's not really about "what is best for parents" but what can actually work. This isn't about grumbling -- for many families, this is about paying rent and buying food.

 

This might be a regional thing, but where I live two phrases are tossed around all the time. They are:

 

"We need to do what is best for the children"

"School is not a babysitter"

 

You (general you) cannot have your cake and eat it, too.  Either you do things that are best for kids or it is just a handy catch-phrase you pull out when it suits you.

 

I do not doubt a late start time would negatively affect some families - that is not the deciding factor for a system wide change.

 

The deciding factor is whether most kids would benefit from late start times, or not.

 

The study colsxjack shared did not mention truancy issues - except among grade 12's signing themselves out in the late afternoon.  Indeed, the degree of tardiness went down, overall, and grades went up. 

post #17 of 38

Neither of my two had a problem with early HS start times. They both started at 7:30 - one was picked up at ~7am, while the other had to be on the bus at 5:50 (different HS 45+ minutes away). The beginning of the year was a bit rough, but once we got into the groove, we all got used to it. Finishing at 1:30pm, left plenty of time for after-school activities, whether sports, clubs, work, etc.

 

One thing to bear in mind wrt sports, is that most fall sports take place outdoors - and few fields (except for football) are lit. So, as the season progresses, games have to finish before dark. Due to the time needed for an opposing team to get to the field and warm up, most games don't start until 4pm. That's Varsity. JV games follow. There is a rather small window to fit in two games, each running an hour and 15 minutes or longer.

 

And once they hit college? Most, if not all, colleges run many (including freshman-level) classes starting at 8am. Depending on the size of the school/campus (and the location of the dorms), getting to class could take anywhere from a few minutes to thirty or more.
 

post #18 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

Are the problems not the same at the end of the day?

 

In any event, if the issue comes down to "what is best for kids" versus "what is best for parents"  I think schools need to come down on the kids side.  The parents will adjust, albeit with some grumblings.  School is not a paid babysitter.

Around here, like I mentioned previously, there is no before care in the middle and high schools.  However, all of the schools seem to have some sort of after care, and many kids stay after school for sports, band, clubs etc...  And that allows parents to pick their kids up between 5 and 6 pm, either from school, or b/c the kid takes a later bus home.  

 

So unless as a society all jobs agree to start at 9am or later, the reality is parents trump kids in many districts.  I think it's naive to say parents will adjust.  For those parents w/the ability to work flexible hours, yes they will.  For those who can't, the problem remains for those families w/those constraints.  Sure, schools could start offering before care, allowing those fortunate enough to have parents who can "adjust" as you put it to sleep later.  But many kids are still stuck w/having to be at school early in the morning.  

 

Just to be clear, I totally agree that kids should start later in middle and high school, I've read the studies, and our school explored it.  Dh and I thought it would be great.  But over 80% of the parents at our school said it wasn't feasible for their family. 

post #19 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

This might be a regional thing, but where I live two phrases are tossed around all the time. They are:

 

"We need to do what is best for the children"

"School is not a babysitter"

 

 

Teenagers don't exist as autonomous units, they are part of a family. School needs to function in a way that works for families.

post #20 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by neptunemama View Post

 

So unless as a society all jobs agree to start at 9am or later, the reality is parents trump kids in many districts.  I think it's naive to say parents will adjust.  For those parents w/the ability to work flexible hours, yes they will.  For those who can't, the problem remains for those families w/those constraints.  Sure, schools could start offering before care, allowing those fortunate enough to have parents who can "adjust" as you put it to sleep later.  But many kids are still stuck w/having to be at school early in the morning.  

 

Just to be clear, I totally agree that kids should start later in middle and high school, I've read the studies, and our school explored it.  Dh and I thought it would be great.  But over 80% of the parents at our school said it wasn't feasible for their family. 

Most teenagers can get themselves on the bus.  If they cannot, it is unfortunate, but not really my problem.  Some teenagers really do require after school supervision - do we keep teens in until 5:00 p.m. because some kids need it?  No.  Why should teens then go to school early because  a few teens have trouble putting themselves on a bus?  Please note I am only talking about teens.

 

Much (most?) research shows late start times benefit most high schoolers.  

 

That should not be sacrificed because it will be difficult for a few.

 

No system is going to work well for all people- you need to look at what system will best benefit the most people. 

 

I get there are real objections - but nothing is going to change if people only look at obstacles.

 

A link, with a few of the positives of later start times:

http://www.islandpacket.com/2010/08/21/1345747/early-high-school-start-times.html

 

 

The National Sleep Foundation lists benefits associated with later high school start times:

• Less likelihood of depressed moods

• Reduced likelihood of tardiness

• Reduced absenteeism

• Better grades

• Reduced risk of car crashes caused by falling asleep

• Reduced risk of metabolic and nutritional problems associated with insufficient sleep, including obesity

 


Edited by kathymuggle - 9/10/12 at 4:24pm
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