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Monfredo: Moving Up School Starting Time On The Secondary Level - A Community Discussion

Sunday, February 07, 2016

 

One of the “hot” topics discussed this week at the Standing Committee on Teaching  Learning and Student Support was on whether the starting time on the secondary level can or should be changed.

Sleep deprivation among teens has become a major public health issue across the nation for research has shown that not enough sleep puts teens physical and physiological health at risk. According to studies lack of adequate sleep can result in memory impairment, poor academy performance and decision making, moodiness and aggression, anxiety, and even more car accidents.

It was ten years ago that School Committee member Brian O’Connell brought psychologist and professor at the College of Holy Cross Dr. Amy Wolfson to a sub-committing meeting to discuss her findings of this topic. Dr. Wolfson’s research in Worcester  found in a survey with more than 3000 students that students getting low marks obtained about 25 minutes less sleep and went to bed 40 minutes later than students who reported they were getting A’s and B’s.

Since then more and more research has been done. Again the data shows a positive relationship between starting time and academic performance. The evidence points out that adolescents need more sleep and the effects of sleep deprivation has had a negative effect on their learning capabilities.  

Multiple factors, "including biological changes in sleep associated with puberty, lifestyle choices, and academic demands," negatively impact teens' ability to get enough sleep, and pushing back school start times is key to helping them achieve optimal levels of sleep – 8½ to 9½ hours a night,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics in a 2014 news release.

 Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics also stated, “Chronic sleep loss in  adolescents "can, without hyperbole, really be called a public health crisis.”

In the past several years many schools around the country have pushed back the school starting time  such as the city of Seattle after receiving a great deal of community input. In addition, more school districts around the U.S. are heeding the advice of scientists who have long said that expecting teens to show up to class early isn't good for their health or their report cards.

Now in our state, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees has established a committee to review the starting times of secondary schools as more and more research shows the positive side of a later starting time. n addition, many surrounding towns such as Northboro, Southboro and Lunenburg are considering a new starting time for next year.

Based on all the research in the past ten years why aren’t more districts not changing their starting time? It’s the same reasons that were articulated at the standing committee meeting this week … disruption in child care for in many cases older children care for younger children when they get out of school or even before school, the challenge of coordinating interscholastic activities and sports with other districts, students with after school jobs and the biggest reason is the financial aspect of what it would cost in transportation.

However, we as a community need to make healthy policy decisions for all students. Is it possible that these problems can be worked out? We know the benefits from the research but at the moment we are stuck in neutral. Let’s look at the obstacles and see if they can be solved. Thus, as a  School Committee we have asked administration to come back next month with additional ideas and to review and changes in the cost for transportation. Let’s examine our options and not just sweep the item under the rug.  

I would like to hear from our readers on this issue … e-mail me at [email protected]

 

Related Slideshow: Central MA’s Top High Schools 2015

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#100 Nipmuc Regional High

Upton, MA

2014 Rank: #134

Enrolment: 627

Mascot: Warrior

Claim to Fame: Aerosmith played its first gig at Nipmuc Regional high on November 6, 1970.

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 96.2% (+0.7%)

District spending per pupil: $11,900

Student-teacher ratio: 13:1

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#95 North Central Charter Essential

Fitchburg, MA

2014 Rank: #197

Enrolment: 217

Mascot: N/A

Claim to Fame: Students from over 30 cities and towns in central Massachusetts are eligible to enroll at North Central Charter Essential. 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 78% (-8.3%)

District spending per pupil: $13,569

Student-teacher ratio: 9.4:1

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#90 Shrewbury Senior High

Shrewsbury, MA

2014 Rank: #117

Enrolment: 1,684

Mascot: Colonial

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Shawn Loiseau, who played linebacker in the NFL. 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 94.9% (+0.2%)

District spending per pupil: $11,612

Student-teacher ratio: 14.8:1

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#87 Lunenburg High School

Lunenburg, MA

2014 Rank: #104

Enrollment: 427

Mascot: Blue Knights

Claim to Fame: Gordon Edes, a sportswriter for The Boston Globe, is a member of the class of 1972.

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 98.2% (+1.4%)

District spending per pupil: $12,027

Student-teacher ratio: 12.4:1

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#73 Tahanto Regional High

Boylston, MA

2014 Rank: #80

Enrollment: 297

Mascot: Stags

Claim to Fame: Students, teachers, and faculty now enjoy a $32.2M building that opened in 2013.

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 94.2% (+7.3%)

District spending per pupil: $11,644

Student-teacher ratio: 12:1

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#63 Tantasqua Regional High School

Fiskdale, MA

2014 Rank: #63

Enrollment: 770

Mascot: Warrior

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Joel Crouse (Country Singer) and James Lynch (Guitarist for the Dropkick Murphys).

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 91.7% (-3.2%)

District spending per pupil: $12,403

Student-teacher ratio: 9.6:1

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#51 Algonquin Regional High

Northborough, MA

2014 Rank: #33

Enrollment: 1,452

Mascot: The Tomahawk (T-Hawk)

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Mark "The Bird" Fidrych (former MLB pitcher), Ryan Gallant (professional skateboarder), Nathaniel Raymond (human rights investigator and anti-torture advocate), and Mike Sherman (former head coach of the Green Bay Packers), and current offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins). 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 97.1% (-0.4%)

District spending per pupil: $12,929

Student-teacher ratio: 13.7:1

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#45 Nashoba Regional

Bolton, MA

2014 Rank: #76

Enrollment: 1,075

Mascot: Chieftain

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Hal Gill (National Hockey League player with the Nashville Predators), Koren Zailckas (Author of bestselling book Smashed), and Clive Weeden (Professional basketball player).

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 95.3% (+0.2%)

District spending per pupil: $13,107

Student-teacher ratio: 14.2:1

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#40 Hopkinton High

Hopkinton, MA

2014 Rank: # 53

Enrollment: 1,122

Mascot: Hillers

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Keegan Bradley (Professional Golfer).

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 99% (-0.2%)

District spending per pupil: $13,005

Student-teacher ratio: 13.9:1

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#26 Westborough High

Westborough, MA

2014 Rank: #26

Enrollment: 1,045

Mascot: The Ranger

Claim to Fame: Westborough High offers a wide variety of curricular and extracurricular musical ensembles. 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 97.1% (+0.5%)

District spending per pupil: $14,306

Student-teacher ratio: 12.7:1

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#14 Bromfield School

Harvard, MA

2014 Rank: #13

Enrollment: 414

Mascot: Trojan

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Keir O'Donnell (Starred in the popular comedy movie the Wedding Crashers) and Lynn Jennings (In 1992 she became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in long-distance track). 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 97.1% (-1.2%)

District spending per pupil: $14,691

Student-teacher ratio: 12.9:1

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#8 MA Academy for Math and Science

Worcester, MA

2014 Rank: #285

Enrollment: 97

Mascot: Gompei the Goat

Claim to Fame: Seniors at MA Academy for Math and Science take a full-time course load at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate:100% (0%)

District spending per pupil: $13,466

Student-teacher ratio: 13.1:1

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#5 Advanced Math and Science Academy

Charter School

Marlborough, MA

2014 Rank: #6

Enrollment: 569

Mascot: War Eagle

Claim to Fame: Advanced Math and Science Academy offers more than ten computer science classes to students: ranging from Game Design to Intro to Java/Networking. 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 99% (+0.4%)

District spending per pupil: $14,723

Student-teacher ratio: 12.3:1

 
 

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