Sunday, October 21, 2012

4,000 Supporters for Later Start Time at Montgomery County Schools // PLUS: School Board Candidates & Experts Weigh In

Earlier this week, Maryland Juice reported on a fascinating movement for a later start to high school times in Montgomery County. School currently starts at 7:20 am (and did going back to when I was an MCPS student in the 90's), but parents, scientists and students want the time pushed back to 8:15 am or later. They cite numerous studies indicating positive health effects and a better learning environment from a later start time, given the natural biological clocks and rhythms of adolescents. The viral petition effort is now nearing 4,000 supporters, and politicians are beginning to weigh in. In fact, this article was easily the most-read blog post at Maryland Juice this week, garnering several hundred pageviews. See what the fuss is all about below.

BOARD OF EDUCATION CANDIDATES WEIGH IN ON LATER START TO SCHOOL: We asked all six candidates for the Montgomery County Board of Education to respond with their thoughts on the issue, and so far we have only received two comments:
  • At-large school board candidate Morris Panner says, "As a parent, it certainly makes a great deal of sense.  I am reading the studies about the benefits and am impressed."
  • District 2 school board candidate Fred Evans responded, "I believe it is worth studying."

Even more interesting, is that Maryland Juice found District 4 school board candidate Annita Seckinger's name on the petition. She was signer number 3598. You can ask the Board of Education candidates about this issue at two upcoming debates (see below). The candidates' email addresses are also available online.

October 24, 2012
6:45pm to 9pm
Board of Education Candidates Forum
Phil Kauffman
Morris Panner
Fred Evans
Rebecca Smondrowski
Chris Barclay
Annita Seckinger
Progressive Neighbors
State Delegate Bonnie Cullison
Sharon Dooley
Marva Deskins
Takoma Park Presbyterian Church
Assembly Hall
310 Tulip Ave (at Maple St)
Takoma Park
October 29, 2012
6:15pm to 7:45pm
Board of Education Candidates Forum
Phil Kauffman
Morris Panner
Fred Evans
Rebecca Smondrowski
Chris Barclay
Annita Seckinger
League of Women Voters of Montgomery County
American Association of University Women
Wheaton Library
11701 Georgia Avenue

GOOD JOB, MOCO: In fact, Maryland Juice has had great fun reading through the dozens of comments from supporters of a later start time for high school. Poring through the numerous intelligent and insightful petition responses has reminded me of the unique blend of wonkiness and civic activism we often see in MoCo. In fact, by my estimation, the last time we've seen this much policy interest from ordinary residents was when County Executive Ike Leggett proposed a comically superstitious youth curfew in the midst of a historic crime decline.

Perhaps Montgomery County residents, who have one of the nation's highest concentrations of post-graduate degrees, have a greater expectation of policy grounded in evidence than in other jurisdictions? Below I highlight a sampling of noteworthy comments from petition signers:

  • Patrick Leanza, Silver Spring, MD: As an ex-school board member I know how difficult this is but it really is worth the effort. The problem of extra-curricular activities and sports is real so at least consider the winter and spring seasons.
  • Oren, Silver Spring, MD: As a former PTA president I strongly support a later start to the school day.

  • Laurie, Silver Spring, MD: This is a data driven school system: ACT on the DATA! 
  • Michael, Wheaton, MD: I don't understand why MCPS would do something that clearly goes against what the research says. The research clearly says that teenagers' body clocks are on a later time cycle and need more sleep. If you had cancer and the research showed that a particular treatment didn't work would you use it anyway? It is ridiculous to start high school at 7:20.
  • Lisa, Potomac, MD: This idea has been around for years and is repeatedly rejected by the school system but it is time to listen to the scientific evidence and get our priorities straight. More sleep equals more academic success. If the bus schedules are the issue have the elementary schools start earlier. 
  • Terri, Chevy Chase, MD: This fight never ends: I worked for later MCPS bell times between 1998 and 2002 while my kids were in high school with no result. Parents need to get behind this.
  • Susan, Takoma Pk, MD: This seriously needed change should have been enacted years ago. I realize the transportation costs increase greatly with the scheduling changes that accompanyh transporting high school students later in the day. BUT what is the point in saving money if we are properly educating students while they are on school campuses? And please do not let the arguments around conflicting priorities derail this effort - alert students able to perform at their bests in the classroom ARE the top priority!
  • Kathy, Garrett Park, MD: This is just common sense. There is no good reason this can't be done if enough parents will it.
  • Stephan, Bethesda, MD: Let get over the bureaucratic inertia and get this change done for the benefit of our teenagers.
  • Barbara, Kensington, MD: MCPS should at least respond with a committee of parents, physicians and MCPS personnel to review evidence and impact.
  • Jeff, Potomac, MD: The research on this issue is overwhelming. Please help Montgomery County serve our students' needs and enhance their education by making the school schedule fit their needs rather than forcing them to adapt unnaturally and with limited success to a schedule determined based solely on other bases.
  • Karen, Kensington, MD: If there is a large concern about sports being impacted in the afternoon, you change them to the morning before school. Exercise before school should also help students concentrate better and kick start their day.
  • Leslie, Chevy Chase, MD: The science has been known for years about the need for high school students need for sleep and shifting of their biological clock to later in the morning. Why not help contribute to their academic success rather than compromise it?
  • Aren, Silver Spring, MD: This is of the utmost importance to both the physical and mental health of our children. Other area school districts (like Loudon Co.) have figured this out, and MoCo shouldn't be left behind.
  • Heidi, Bethesda, MD: It's time to begin the discussion. Making this kind of change would have huge repercussions on everything from bus deployment to extracurricular activities, but the evidence is the evidence, and we are currently ritually abusing our adolescents. Children first!
  • Merry, Potomac, MD: Today's Wall Street Journal adds even more ammo for this argument: No reason that bus schedules can't be turned around so elementary kids (who wake up earlier anyway) can't start school first, then middle, and then high school.

  • Linda, Silver Spring, MD: As a parent of four, and as an adolescent therapist in MC MD, I have been advocating for this change for forty years. Lives, educations, and careers have been profoundly and negatively affected by this chronic sleep deprivation for financial/budget reasons which is unacceptable.
  • Jeanine, Rockville, MD: As a Psychotherapist who treats children & adolescents with depression, school phobia and stress, it is with firm conviction I recommend a later start time for MCPS high schoolers. Let's set them up for success, starting early each day.
  • AC, Bethesda, MD: I would be happy to arrange for experts in the field to educate and/or testify on the merits of the proposal. AC Koumbourlis, M.D., M.P.H. Chief, Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine Children's National Medical Center Professor of Pediatrics
  • Cheryl, Silver Spring, MD: As a psychotherapist, I strongly endorse this measure - all research and anecdotal data suggests the current start time for teens is highly destructive, both emotionally and educationally.
  • Kathleen, Takoma Park, MD: As a researcher of adolescent health, I truly know the importance of sleep on adolescent adjustment, health, and well being.
  • Leslie, Chevy Chase, MD: as an educator I believe that a simple change is in order - move the elementary school opening times to the earlier slots. This is all about bus schedules.
  • M. R., Sandy Spring, MD: I am at NIH and have been involved in this type of research and the empirical evidence is overwhelming. However, my understanding is that these schedules depend on bus sharing and thus are economically driven. I believe the state of Michigan has done this. If I am wrong, please correct me! But I'm with you. Thanks
  • Resnik, Bethesda, MD: As a psychologist and former high school special educator for MCPS, I think we would all gain from this change.
  • Laila, Silver Spring, MD: As a clinical psychologist, I am aware of both the empirical and anecdotal evidence that starting high school later is immensely beneficial for children's emotional and academic development. Please make this change!
  • Beth, Glen Echo, MD: As a parent of former MCPS students and as I teacher, I follow the arguments and the research. It is clearly advantageous to delay the start time and to revisit the staggering of opening to address the needs of our high schoolers.
  • Judy, Bethesda, MD: I'm a neurologist. I completely and totally agree
  • Brooke, Kensington, MD: Having taught high school and having had teenagers of my own AND having read the research-it never has made sense to have these students in class BEFORE they wake up!
  • Jane, Takoma Park, MD: As a retired teacher and parent of an MCPS high school graduate, I feel that my daughter would have benefited from this change. Let's make it for future students. JH.
  • Lee, Takoma Park, MD: My wife, a 6 yr. h.s. english teacher in the Montgomery Co. School system will attest that this measure will increase productivity across the board in her experience.
  • Gloria, Silver Spring, MD: I'm a teacher and a mom and I see first hand how much worse kids learn before 8:00 a.m.

  • Tessa, Olney, MD: Moving from Texas to Maryland, I was surprised to learn that one of the top school districts in the state does not utilize evidence based data to help further improve education. Adults are barely productive at the hours our teens are in school. Why is there a delay in implementing what works. Our teens should not suffer because adults do not want to change their own schedule.
  • Oskar, Bethesda, MD: I have experience with high schools in 4 countries (Norway, Bangladesh, India and the US) and US start times are by far the earliest. I have never understood the disparity between the starting times for elementary school and high school students in the US; it would be much more reasonable to reverse the start times, letting the teens sleep and reducing the need for before-care for elementary school students.
  • Debra, Columbia, MD: I live in Howard County but we have the same issue here and I am very involved in trying to get school times changed here, as well. This is an important issue and I am glad that Montgomery county parents are getting organized. Good Luck! 
  • Ben, Rockville, MD: I led a similar campaign as a student in West Hartford, CT in 1997. Let me know if I can help in any way.
  • Joel, Rockville, MD: I am a college student now, but I was always for this, because it is absolutely ridiculous to have to wake up at 6:00 a.m. each morning for some. I go to school in France now, and schools start at 9:30.

  • Henry, Gaithersburg, MD: I M A SENIOR WITH 5 AP .. LET ME SLEEP OMG
  • Patrick, Germantown, MD: As a student who is currently taking 4 AP classes, and playing sports both in and out of school- sleep can sometimes be scarce. The extra few of sleep would help tremendously with the academic and physical well-being of not only myself, but many others in the same position as my self.

 More on the battle for evidence-based policymaking soon!

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