Parent Groups Join Forces to Push for Later High School Start Time

The Parents Advocacy Network (PAN) has teamed up with Anne Arundel County-based Start School Later to request later, healthier hours for AACPS.

You may have heard all the hubbub about the push to start Montgomery County High Schools later - culminating in the delivery of a petition with over 10,000 names on it today to the Montgomery County Board of Education. Well, Montgomery County with its 7:25 a.m. school start times has nothing on us here in Anne Arundel.

Besides being the proud owners of the very earliest high school start time in Maryland (7:17 a.m.!) and home of the national Start School Later coalition, Anne Arundel County has its own chapter of Start School Later, and its own petition. It also has a new partnership with the Parents Advocacy Network, an independent citizens group formed last year to improve Anne Arundel County public schools.

Readers who have been following the later start time issue might be interesting in the following press release, just issued by Joanna Conti, PAN's chair and founder:

Anne Arundel County’s high school start time of 7:17 a.m. is the earliest in Maryland and one of the earliest in the country.  The Parents Advocacy Network has teamed up with the national organization Start School Later to request that our public schools start classes no earlier than 8:00 a.m.  Almost 2,000 Anne Arundel County residents have already signed a petition supporting this change.

A tremendous amount of research in recent years has compellingly shown that very early start times are hurting our children’s health and educational achievement”, said Joanna Conti, Chair of the Parents Advocacy Network.  “I was particularly struck by the number of comments made by teachers who signed the petition about how barely alert many Anne Arundel students are in their first period classes.”
Terra Snider, Co-Chair of Start School Later, adds:   "The concerns opponents typically raise about costs, sports, jobs, daycare, etc. turn out to be largely myths. School hours that allow our children to get adequate sleep and maximize their health, safety, and academic success should be considered as fundamental - and non-negotiable - as heating the schools. Communities that have put children's health and well-being first have been able to find creative solutions, and so can AACPS if it has the will to do so."
If you agree that high schools should start later, please sign the petition at www.AACStartTime.com.  To learn more or to help advocate for change, visit www.ParentsAdvocacyNetwork.org/starttime.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jeff Andrade December 12, 2012 at 11:59 PM
This proposal is a crock. Figures that failed candidate for County Exec, Joanna Conti has latched on to it as her flavor of the month issue. The fact is high school kids outside the US, typically go to school early, stay longer, and do more than those here in the US. Many have longer commutes, which can be over an hour each way. Kids in Japan even have a time - o soji -- where they clean up the entire school before they leave for the day. In South Korea they go to high school from 8 am to 4 pm BEFORE extra-curricular activities. In a number of countries, the students even go to school on Saturday for part of the day. The fact also is that US high school students continue to perform far below their peers overseas - 14th in reading literacy, 25th in math, and 17th in science - despite the fact that we spend more per pupil than all of the high-performing countries like China, Singapore, South Korea, Finland and Canada. So isn't it amazing that students in these other countries seem to be able to get up early and still perform well in school. Anne Arundel high schools, by most measures, are mediocre compared to other MD counties. Parents and students ought to be petitioning for more instructional time, better trained teachers, and more challenging academic standards. Stop using pseudo science to make excuses and try instilling a strong work ethic that can last a lifetime. Let's provide our students with a good education that's worth getting out of bed early for.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. December 13, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Jeff, I disagree with you, obviously, as do the vast majority of health professionals, sleep researchers, and educators familiar with the literature on adolescent sleep and school start time. If you have evidence that running high schools from 7 a.m. until 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon is better for the overall health and learning of teenagers than, say, running them from 9-3 (much more traditional hours), however, please share it. Your comments also raise two other points worth considering: 1) The petitions in question propose 8 or or 8:15 a.m.as an earliest opening school hour, both considerably earlier than traditional school bell times. Is 8 a.m. really so radical? If so, would you consider any time at all to be unhealthy or counterproductive? High schools all over the country (and beyond), often top academic institutions with top athletic programs, start after 8 a.m., after all. 2) Human beings are adaptable and can rise to meet challenging circumstances - but often at considerable cost Just because people can do something, after all, doesn't mean they should.This is something to consider in the context of your overseas examples. However high a country's achievements may be (or seem to be), they'd probably be even higher, and the country considerably healthier, with enough sleep.
Maribel Ibrahim December 13, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Jeff, your insights would be worth considering if we only cared about school performance. However, let's look at China, Finland, South Korea and Singapore. The standard of living in all of these countries is horrific compared to the United States. So, the fact that no one seems to "complain" in these countries is not accurate. They don't have the right to complain and no one would listen if they did. Also, you don't list their school start times or end times, so we are not dealing with facts. Do we really want to look at a scientifically proven health issue and cry foul because people in other countries that most of us would not choose to live in aren't raising a fuss? This is called "putting our heads in the sand". Now, Canada, the other country you mentioned, is actually proposing later school start times, specifically in Toronto and other places! We are underperforming in schools, primarily because we place too much emphasis on testing, sports, extra-curriculars, copious and redundant homework and not enough emphasis on critical thinking skils and sleep. Sleep is not a luxury, but a necessity. Get the facts on why the sleep crunch is causing the sleep deprivation crisis at www.StartSchoolLater.net
Dolores Skowronek December 13, 2012 at 04:16 AM
Jeff, the good people behind the Start School Later movement are highly educated, intelligent, hard working parents who are well aware of the difference between real science and pseudoscience. When you refer to the peer reviewed research literature that’s been published on this issue as “fake” or pseudoscience, well – it’s worth a chuckle. Please read this for a refresher on what actually constitutes pseudoscience: http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/pseudo.html
Alan Simpson December 13, 2012 at 03:46 PM
You should also look at suicide rates for students in places like South Korea and Japan before holding them up as an example we should follow.
Jeff Andrade December 13, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Terra, adolescents are only in school for at most about 180 days of a 365-day year, and the surveys that show the high percentage of adolescents who get less than 9 hours are at schools that start at a variety of times and don't get 9 hours even in the summer. Your arguments that later school starts are automatically better and healthier just don't hold up to reality. There are a lot of other variables that go into a young person's health and development, and the trends for those variables are not getting better. I would also point out that military boot camps, which train those in their late teens, start much earlier than 8 and the recruits get a full 8 hours of sleep most nights while in garrison because they also get to bed early. Midshipmen at the Naval Academy are typically up at 5:30 for Physical Training and off to first class at 7;30. I believe that generally more instructional time in high school, including longer daily time, results in better academic performance, assuming that time is used productively. That is supported, with a few exceptions, by the international and state/district/school results. My main problem with the "Start School Later" proposals is that it's a sideshow that distracts attention away from addressing the real issues related to improving academic performance at the high school level.
Alan Simpson December 13, 2012 at 05:37 PM
I blogged about a similar issue recently. If you are interested it can be read here - http://theycallmetater.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/schools-out-never/
Jeff Andrade December 13, 2012 at 05:40 PM
South Korea has a high suicide rate overall, as do many of the former Eastern Bloc countries. The rate for 15-24 year olds in Korea is a little over one-third of what it is for the population as a whole. In fact, the suicide rate for 15-24 year olds in South Korea (13 per 100K) is about the same as for the US overall (12 per 100K) and for US 20-24 year olds (12.7 per 100K) . Singapore and Canada have suicide rates below that of the US. Finland is slightly higher. So may be you should look up these rates before you comment.
Jeff Andrade December 13, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Actually, what's worth a chuckle is that the advocates claim that the proposal is "research-based" without having carefully obtained, reliable evidence -- controlling for other variables -- that the practice works. Most of the research bantered about on this topic comes from Mary Carskadon at Brown University and snippets from her 30+ years studying adolescent and college student sleep patterns are repeatedly bounced around the echo chamber in effort to give them more credence. Problem is people are selective in what parts of that research they use. For instance in an interview on PBS.org, Carskadon notes that teenagers now have host new things available to them "that occur late at night, from televisions and telephones and computers in the bedrooms to jobs that they take that go late into the night, their sleep has been shoved into an ever-narrowing window." But the advocates contend that "sleep deficits" are caused because kids start school too early, rather that the personal choices that their parents allow them to make to go to sleep late. I've seen lots of different studies done with varying degrees of rigor on actual implementation of this in different jurisdictions and there is no good evidence that it improves academic performance.
John December 13, 2012 at 09:05 PM
I went into the Marines right out of high school and absolutely guarantee you that we didn't sleep it until 7 or 8am. We did, however, get a full 8 hours of sleep every day. I'm pretty sure if that was harmful they certainly wouldn't want us handling things like...oh...grenades, rifles, etc...So I'm pretty darned sure the high school kids can manage to wake up at 6am after getting 8 hours of sleep. Oh, and this 9 and 10 hours of sleep garbage is just that - garbage.
Dolores Skowronek December 13, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Jeff, it's interesting to hear that there are lots of studies done on implementation in different jurisdictions - yet no good evidence showing that later start times improve academic achievement. I'm an open minded - information loving librarian and would love to see your citations to these published research studies. While you're at it, please post any studies showing no improvement to adolescent health and safety. I would love to see those too! Thanks.
Jeff Andrade December 13, 2012 at 09:18 PM
That's right John. In fact, the Marine Corps Recruit Training Regulations specify providing recruits with eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, except under a couple of very specific circumstances. The 9 hours figure that gets bantered about is "can be up to 9 hours" and is considered by the researchers as "optimal" not "required", but these people pick and choose what fits their personal agenda, and espouse as gospel.
John December 13, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Jeff, that's just Parris Island. After that I went to Infantry Training School at Camp Geiger NC. There, we learned to cherish sleep. Sometimes we got 8, sometimes 2. Everyone functioned just fine. Again, this is dealing with live ammo.
Jeff Andrade December 13, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Dolores: Here's the Wahlstrom studies in MN in the late-90's, often cited by proponents, but which showed no change in academic performance and little improvement in attendance/tardiness. http://www.cehd.umn.edu/CAREI/publications/documents/SST-2001ES.pdf http://www.cehd.umn.edu/CAREI/publications/documents/SST-1998ES.pdf There are couple of others that I'll dig up that weren't as comprehensive. Also, in response to an article that noted "there is little rigorous evidence directly linking school start times and academic performance" the author of this article "The question here isn’t whether schools should start later but how to make that happen. Pinpointing academic gains of any individual educational change is tough..." which was followed by comments from other advocates to the effect that they should just claim this works and focus on the politics of getting school boards to adopt the change. See http://educationnext.org/do-schools-begin-too-early/ We've seen this sort of strategy used before in the past with failed education fads like open classrooms, whole language reading instruction, and "new math". The Later School Day movement is just another one of those misguided fads that distracts attention away from addressing the real challenges in our high schools and attempts to make excuses for under-performing high school students and their parents with hyperbole about how early start times are the problem.
Dolores Skowronek December 14, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Jeff, I’m glad to see that you have directed Patch readers to these articles – but both support later start times and not your point of view so I’m surprised to see you reference them. I’m also sorry to see that you are misrepresenting Dr. Wahlstrom’s findings. Her study did in fact reveal a slight increase in grades and a significant improvement in attendance rates. Other advantages mentioned in her study include more sleep for students, improved emotional well-being, benefits associated with teaching and learning, and improved family relationships. It’s a great study. Thanks for posting it! I hope Patch readers will take the time to click on your links and read these published works that support Dr. Ziporyn Snider and Start School Later’s position on this issue.
Jeff Andrade December 14, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Dolores, perhaps you should read Wahlstrom's reports a little closer and become familiar with the term "not statistically significant". As far as the rest goes, those results are based on people's reported perceptions in survey data, not anything scientific or directly observed. I think the more people read about this, they will quickly see the biases, logical leaps of faith, weaknesses in the methodology and measures used, and the subjective intangibles that you refer to like "improved emotional well being." As far as attendance rates go, the greatest rate of improvement over 5 years that was reported was an improvement in attendance of only 4% (83% - 87% for 9th graders only) and was pretty much non-existent for students who were continuously enrolled in the district during the period. As noted in the Wahlstrom report, the differences in letter grades earned by the students "were not statistically significant". The primary takeaway of the adolescent sleep research is that there are things which don't require government approval that parents ought to be doing right now like moving back their kids "lights out" time a half-hour, stopping TV, video games, cell phone/texting and computer use close to (and after) bedtime, encouraging exercise, maintaining consistent bedtime routines and sleep/wake schedules even on weekends and during summer that can improve their kids' sleep quality and readiness for school.
DC December 14, 2012 at 05:41 AM
I laugh. I cry. There is ZERO data... that supports the theory of "doing just fine with live ammo" after 2 hours of sleep is the optimal level of performance. Every appliance we operate, every extension cord to sump pump to air traffic control radar has a duty cycle and a life cycle and operating instructions, cautions and warnings! I suspect your training officer knew at what point sleep deprivation would make you a little jumpy. Heck, sleep deprivation is a torture tool. When something is operated on overdrive -beyond thresholds- it no longer produces OPTIMAL performance. In schools "just fine" or "it worked for me" is simply settling and a cop out. To some degree it seems to suggest "As I was abused, so shall you be". We are AMERICANS. We DO NOT and SHOULD NOT settle! . Schools aren’t collecting teens in the dark because the teens operate optimally. They collect them in the dark, induce sleep deprivation in a week’s course and then shrug at the idea of better student life if it threatens a transportation budget. Members of the public deserve to hear the teen sleep science instead of a bunch of Marines thinking that teenagers should desire to learn under in theater conditions. Your anecdotal arguments are tiresome and symbolize all that is wrong with community activism. Being a community blockade does not equal same.
Jeff Andrade December 14, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I guess DC must stand for "Dramatic Comments".
Hamilton Tyler December 15, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Private schools may start whenver they choose. Do any start at 7:15 am or 7:30 am? No. They tend to be 8:00 am or later. As the parent of two high school teens, they are still half asleep in the morning. This is why the private schools (and I think the public schools) rotate the schedules so that students don't have the same class first every day.
Jeff Andrade December 15, 2012 at 07:15 AM
Actually, private schools are constrained by practicalities similar to public schools and the start times can vary significantly. You have day schools like the Severn School and St. Mary's, but you also have boarding schools and some that have both boarding and day students. Some have upper and lower schools, some don't. Some provide transportation, some don't. Many day schools typically have students that live further away and have longer commutes than in public schools. The other thing you see is what is considered "starting school" can vary. For example, a lot of boarding schools start the organized day before 8 with physical activity or sports practices, and they also must serve breakfast. I have seen day schools with clubs or study halls first thing in the AM. I know a private military high school in NY where they get up at 6 AM, get washed, dressed and straighten up the barracks, do their morning formation before 7 am, and have breakfast, tutorials and office hours all before their 8 AM class -- and those kids start getting ready for bed at 9:30 and lights out at 10, and they keep that same sleep/wake schedule on the weekend. Scheduling varies too, Severn School for example is on a rotating schedule with 60 minute classes, while St. Mary's has a set block schedule with 85 minute classes. Teachers and students at either school will likely say they their way works best. So schools adapt to their constraints and students in turn adapt to the schedule.
R.E. Young December 28, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I guess I am trying to understanding why this is such a hot topic. I realize that I am late seeing this article, but I did want to just add a comment. Anne Arundel County has apparently had early start times for decades. You see, I graduated from Arundel High School almost 30 years ago. I remember catching the bus at around 6:40am. I remember school starting around 7:15am. I remember participating in the band and other extra-curricular activities. I don't remember my parents petitioning for later start times. I have a daughter who survived the same and one who will begin the same schedule next year. No, I am not a health care professional, but I am a darn good parent who simply believes that it is ok to get my kids out of bed at 5:30am to get their day started. I'm not trying to provoke an argument. I just want to understand why this is being considered so detrimental.


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