The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

September 5, 2013

Education chief wants to start school later in day

WASHINGTON — A later start to the school day could help teenagers get the most from their classroom time and local districts should consider delaying the first bell, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday.

School districts would still be free to set their own start times, Duncan insisted in a broadcast interview, but he pointed to research that backs up his comments that rested students are ready students. Duncan said he would not be telling local school leaders when their first bells should ring and said it was up to local leaders to make the decisions on their own.

“There’s lots of research and common sense that lots of teens struggle to get up ... to get on the bus,” said Duncan, the former chief of Chicago Public Schools.

Buses are a driving factor in when schools start their days, as are after-school jobs for teenagers, extracurricular activities and interscholastic sports. The challenge of transporting students to these activities — as well as classes — often is cited as a reason high school days begin at dawn and end mid-afternoon.

“So often, we design school systems that work for adults and not for kids,” Duncan said.

Research backs up Duncan’s worries about student sleep patterns and academic achievement.

“Children who sleep poorly are doing more poorly on academic performance,” said Joseph Buckhalt, a distinguished professor at Auburn University’s College of Education.

He has been tracking sleeping patterns of 250 children as well as their IQ tests, performance on standardized tests, their grades and behavior. His findings suggest sleep is just as important to student achievement as diet and exercise.

“All the data that we’ve seen on sleep shows that children, especially teenagers, are sleeping less,” he said. “If you don’t sleep well, you don’t think very well.”

Part of the lack of sleep is biological as teenagers go through puberty, he said. But afterschool programs such as sports or clubs, as well as increased pressure for students to perform well academically, keep them up later than is prudent. Add in caffeine, non-step social interactions through text messages and Facebook and sometimes less-than-ideal home environments, and students have steep challenges.

For students from less affluent families, the effects can be compounded, Buckhalt found.

“Fifty years ago we learned that hungry kids don’t do well in school. Now we know that sleepy children don’t do well in school,” Buckhalt said. “Now we have to do something about it.”

That doesn’t mean schools are rushing to delay the first period for high school students.

“If any issue cries for local decision making, this is one,” said Patte Barth, director for the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association.

The professional organization has not taken a position on the ideal time to start schools, but Barth said Duncan is correct. “Teenagers are much more alert later in the day rather than earlier,” she said.

In schools where the day starts later, there have been immediate gains, she said.

“Some districts have made these adjustments to the school day and they have found among their teenagers that attendance is better, kids aren’t falling asleep,” she said.

But it comes at a cost for other students, both in terms of dollars and opportunities because schools are operating with limited resources.

“If you’re starting the high school kids later, you’re starting elementary kids earlier. No one wants those kids out on the streets when it’s dark,” she said. “If they’re contemplating this switch, they need to look at the costs.”

Duncan spoke to NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show.”

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Measles off to a fast start, as cases trend up

    Health officials are worried about recent U.S. measles outbreaks that so far have caused more illnesses than at the same point of any year since 1996.
     

    April 25, 2014

  • Ohio winter takes toll on honeybees

    Ohio beekeepers lost 50 to 80 percent of their honeybees over the harsh winter, threatening the farming industry, state agriculture officials say.
     

    April 25, 2014

  • Potential for heart attack, stroke risk seen with marijuana use

    Over a five-year period, a government-mandated tracking system in France showed that physicians in that country treated 1,979 patients for serious health problems associated with the use of marijuana, and nearly 2 percent of those encounters were with patients suffering from cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke, and circulation problems in the arms and legs. In roughly a quarter of those cases, the study found, the patient died.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cleveland women held captive seek Joan Rivers’ apology

    Attorneys for two women held in a Cleveland home and abused for a decade say Joan Rivers should apologize for comparing living in her daughter’s guest room with the captivity they experienced.

    April 24, 2014

  • Fracking foes challenge earthquake assurances

    A citizens group said Wednesday it isn’t taking the word of state regulators that new permitting guidelines will protect public health after earthquakes in northeast Ohio were linked to the gas drilling method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
     

    April 24, 2014

  • U.S. weighs clemency for inmates jailed 10 years

    The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release — and expecting thousands to take up the offer. It’s an effort to deal with high costs and overcrowding in prisons, and also a matter of fairness, the government says.
     

    April 24, 2014

  • Lower-income teens don’t get enough sleep

    African-American high school students and boys in low- to middle-income families reported short, fragmented sleep, and that could play a role in their health risks, researchers reported Monday.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • Health agencies try to counter mumps outbreak

    Health agencies trying to stem a large and growing mumps outbreak are advising college, school and even day care leaders to make sure central Ohio students are immunized and to separate them from those who haven’t been vaccinated and those who are infected.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • An ocean of broken hearts

    Lee Byung-soo says he knew, when he saw his 15-year-old son’s body in the tent. It could not have been more horrifically obvious. But he wanted so much for him to be alive.

    April 22, 2014

  • Biden conferring with Ukranian leader over what to do
    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev on Monday for talks with Ukraine’s embattled interim leaders as Russia’s top diplomat blamed Washington for instigating the crisis that threatens to escalate into armed conflict between the two former Soviet republics.
     

    April 22, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video