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Education chief: Maybe start school day later

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 09:16 a.m. HST, Sep 04, 2013


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 today.

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."







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Bdpapa wrote:
What a wimp! Creating more problems for working parents and enabling laziness. In HS they need to be more respnsible not less.
on September 4,2013 | 06:57AM
allie wrote:
agree..why not go to bed early? geesh..I had to get up at 5:00 am everyday to do my chores and to walk to school. 1.5 miles in ice cold North Dakota winters.
on September 4,2013 | 07:55AM
Bdpapa wrote:
I know, uphill both ways!
on September 4,2013 | 10:49AM
loquaciousone wrote:
If kids would go to bed earlier, they would get plenty of sleep. Why...why why...when I was young I used to go to sleep when the sun went down and walked a hundred miles through foot deep snow to get to school in Haleiwa.
on September 4,2013 | 07:23AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Because u r relying on ur fictionalization skills to enhance your 5 minute walk to school just yards away from your front door. It is ok though the man above gave us the greatest commentator west of the lower 48.
on September 4,2013 | 07:28AM
loquaciousone wrote:
I live in the country dude. A five minute walk only gets you to the drive way.
on September 4,2013 | 07:41AM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
Maybe you should consider running then!!
on September 4,2013 | 11:48AM
allie wrote:
Local kids need the exercise...many are horribly out of shape intellectually and physically!
on September 4,2013 | 07:56AM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
Intellectually? Really, really, coming from you is like the pot calling the kettle black. Allie, your idea of intelletualality is speaking off the top of your mind without the presence of a clear thought process.
on September 4,2013 | 11:51AM
sailfish1 wrote:
100 miles - Sounds like you were walking in the wrong direction. If you went the other direction, the school was only a block away.
on September 4,2013 | 12:36PM
HOSSANA wrote:
Today's kids are lazy, undisciplined, arrogant, spoiled and have short attention span spoiled by their parents and the liberal school system.....what about the kids in the '50's and '60's and even in the '30's and '40's where the intake of knowledge was more intense than what these spoiled kids have today...don't give me this garbage that there is more info in today's society....education back then was more intense and pedantic and kids really learned their skills whereas today its more about satisfying the self-esteem of these spoiled kids...start school a day later...oh, plez, give me a damm break..now a teacher has to entertain the kids as part of the motivation.....school system wants kids to move away from rote learning....book learning....learning the basics...everything has to be visual.....the liberal school system messed up education and this education is one of the worse...
on September 4,2013 | 07:30AM
ellinaskyrt wrote:
Oh dear. You apply ellipses profusely when you should be using periods. You confuse "it's" and "its." You misuse the word "pedantic." You use a comparative when the superlative was required. Lastly, you rant about the laziness of kids today but can't be bothered to spell "please" correctly. You certainly didn't learn much in terms of proper and effective writing despite the "superior" teaching methods of your day.
on September 4,2013 | 08:00AM
inverse wrote:
Never mind the grammatical issues, do you refute the contents of the message? Point is the content is the most important issue in this type of forum not spelling or grammatical errors. Also have you tried entering in a paragraph in a smart phone with a tiny screen or the virtual keyboard of an Ipad? For most errors in grammar and spelling are almost impossible to avoid. Bottom line is Hossana is spot on and accurately reflects the Hawaii public education system and is the reason why so many parents send their kids to private school in Hawaii.
on September 4,2013 | 11:00AM
Skyler wrote:
Touché.
on September 4,2013 | 12:10PM
ellinaskyrt wrote:

The argument about rote learning falls flat. You agree with Hosanna who claims the abandonment of traditional rote methods is why so many parents send their kids to private schools. Well, private schools have long used far more than traditional rote methods as the backbone of teaching. If you read the annual "Best of" lists for local schools, both public and private, you would see that the best schools incorporate creative and entertaining methods to help their students learn, retain, think critically about, discuss and engage in material they've been taught.

The issue of occasional keyboard-related error (which everyone is guilty of) is irrelevant given the plethora of errant ellipses and incorrect multiple possessives when referring to decades in Hossana's post. Your inclusion of that excuse is poor rebuttal.

So, no. I don't agree that Hossana is "spot on." Far from it. Hosanna's post is run-of-the-mill generational, contrarian crotchetiness. When one argues his/her education was superior, his/her post had better exemplify excellence. I give Hosanna an "F" in that effort. And if you're going to argue that content is king, you had better be right about that, too. So you get a "C" for your non-supporting supportive argument.


on September 4,2013 | 02:01PM
sjean wrote:
Many of your points are relevant. However, NCLB is a GW Bush monster. Not a "liberal" creation.The failure of education is a shared result. Hossana in the lowest.
on September 4,2013 | 08:43AM
lee1957 wrote:
I believe the "co-founder" of NCLB was another champion of conservatism, Edward Kennedy.
on September 4,2013 | 03:28PM
Bdpapa wrote:
True, and the worst part, they are the generation we raised. We tried to hard to make it easier thanhow we had it.
on September 4,2013 | 10:51AM
soundofreason wrote:
Here's an idea. Parents - start parenting and get your kids to bed when they should be.
on September 4,2013 | 07:40AM
allie wrote:
yup
on September 4,2013 | 07:56AM
SteveToo wrote:
When I want to school the hours were 9-3. Sounds like a good plan.
on September 4,2013 | 07:44AM
Steve96785 wrote:
Next school year introduces longer school days mandated by Act 52. All secondary students will need to be in classes 1650 minutes per week, or approximately one hour per day longer than this year. That time requirement goes up again in 2016 and 2018 to add an additional hour per day. Please note that this is in addition to lunch, assemblies and other school time that is not strictly academic. Let's say that we start school at 10:00am, instead of 8:00am in common practice today. That will put the end of the academic day at about 6:00pm. If students are involved in sports or other after school events, we would expect them to leave campus around 8:00pm. Our student-athletes, with some of the longest commutes in the state, would get home at about 10:00pm to get started on homework, chores, etc. Obviously, they'll end up getting to sleep that much later, and still be groggy at their new start time. We would just be pushing everything later, without solving any of the real issues, such as parents setting meaningful bed times, removing all electronic devices from children's rooms, including TVs, and making sure that their children get up on time to a real breakfast.
on September 4,2013 | 08:27AM
awahana wrote:
Many have suggested this for decades.
Books, ipads, computers can now be shared instead of one per entire student body, and less money spent in the school budget.
This would also alleviate rush hour traffic for everyone. Even those without school age children. And make for better, flexible, longer work, office, store hours as shifts can be spread across the day.
Some have even envisioned a 24 hour society, as people work and learn across various hours. We don't all eat at the exact same time, we don't all flush the bathroom at the same time; imagine if we did. It would be like the problems we have with commuting today.
But its too logical. It will never happen because of the old and narrow minded thinking that permeates americans today. Meanwhile, other nations have innovated in even such a simple solution to everyday problems and enjoy a stress free and more productive society and economy.
on September 4,2013 | 08:05AM
awahana wrote:
Of course the best solution of all, is homeschooling, which would solve multiple issues, but alas, parents don't make that a priority.
on September 4,2013 | 08:06AM
SteveToo wrote:
Many homes have both parents working. Who would supervise the home school kids?? Many parents don't have the skills to home school their kids.
on September 4,2013 | 09:29AM
inverse wrote:
The solution is to send your kids to one of the better PRIVATE schools in Hawaii. Obama's late maternal grandparents would attest to this statement.
on September 4,2013 | 11:03AM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
Um, NOOOOO, that may be the best solution for YOU, but as most families in Hawai'i there are both parents working. If your idea is the BEST, then tell oh great high and mighty-who is home TEACHING these scholars??
on September 4,2013 | 11:55AM
sailfish1 wrote:
Hahahaha! That is funny. To homeschool a child, the parents need to be smarter than the child. That is highly unlikely these days especially in Hawaii where a lot of the parents went to the dysfunctional public schools.
on September 4,2013 | 12:42PM
flyhieagle wrote:
Going to school before 8:00am is a life time experience entering into the workforce where most jobs starts at 8:00 am. Even if we were to start school at 9:00 am, the kids will still have a reason to complain that is too early.
on September 4,2013 | 08:59AM
SteveToo wrote:
Just think how traffic would be less if school started at 9 instead of 8.
on September 4,2013 | 09:30AM
inverse wrote:
Would not make much of a difference. On Oahu it is the college student/teacher/employees, mostly UH and PRIVATE schools, NOT public schools. The reason is most private schools and UH are all located in the Manoa/Makiki area whereas most public school students attend school in the area in which they live and do not need to commute from W Oahu to town and back.
on September 4,2013 | 11:08AM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
Thank you, at least somebody recognizes the problems and why our traffic is as bad as it is. Way too many private schools and not enough support for our public schools.
on September 4,2013 | 12:02PM
inverse wrote:
In a fantasy situation that would be great that for all the BILLIONS (total budget of DOE including construction, maintenance, employee salaries, etc. etc.) of dollars of Hawaii taxpayer monies that get funneled into the DOE every year, the State would magically provide a first rate and solid public education that rivals Puna hou or Io lani. That would put many private schools out of business in Hawaii and that would be fine with me as more parents in Hawaii would not have to work 2-3 jobs to just pay for their kids private school education. And in that case with almost all kids attending school in the district they live in, weekday traffic morning/afternoon traffic on Oahu would quite manageable for the entire workweek. Of course with the HSTA and other unions, that will NEVER, ever happen in the State of the Hawaii
on September 4,2013 | 08:05PM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
Steve, the idea is there, but the thought processed stopped somewhere along the way. With the 9am start time, who will be taking these kids to school now that both Mom and Dad have already left the house an hour ago. It may work if we did away with private schools and made each child go to the school actually within ones district or neighborhood. Right now you've got 1/3 of the state's kids being transported via bus, private auto to all points around the island. Way too many unnecessary trips being wasted.
on September 4,2013 | 12:00PM
CriticalReader wrote:
That is idiotic. Fire the US Education Secretary. Here's what I read: "You know why the thing I'm responsible for is so bad in this country? Because we're making children wake up too early. We need to reset the schedule of all of society so that my department doesn't look so bad. We have to accommodate the kids playing video games until two in the morning. So, let's start school later. And have the parents drop off the kids 2 hours before school starts so they can get to work on time. And, have the kids go home later, so there's less time for them to do homework AND play video games for three hours." Ludicrous.
on September 4,2013 | 09:18AM
Big C wrote:
Not a good idea. This will only "Promote" the idea of getting up later, thus not being able to meet the REAL WORLD once they graduate. Go to sleep early, then you will be an early riser.
on September 4,2013 | 09:37AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
It may also help the traffic congestion. Why all schools start at the same time is beyond me. Some schools should start later so that parents and students do not have to spend as much time on the road going through traffic. The DOE should look into staggering school starting times so that not all schools start at the same time adding to the traffic congestion. It would result in the congestion being reduced in the late afternoons as some schools would be letting out later. As someone posted, though, there are too many people resistant to change. Private schools could lead the way and start later.
on September 4,2013 | 10:25AM
XML808 wrote:
Many parents drop their kids off at school on the way to work. So what do they do if the school day starts later? Probably the same thing, unless their employers allow flex time.
on September 4,2013 | 11:17AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Historically schools have prepared students to eventually enter the job market. Starting schools later because the kids can't get up only creates downstream problems. We already have enough problems with workers not having the necessary education to perform simple tasks, now we want to have them expect that they don't have to show up until they can get up. Very bad idea.
on September 4,2013 | 01:33PM
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