How to improve student achievement in Seguin ISD? It is a subject that has been discussed, debated, and mulled over for years. Raise teacher pay. Improve discipline. Universal pre-kindergarten. Test more. Test less. You name it-it’s been discussed. So far, we haven’t seen benefits from the various initiatives that have been tried.
Educate Seguin would like to propose to the Board of Trustees that they consider something new: changing the time school starts.
There is a lot of solid evidence that this can improve the performance of middle-and high-school students. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement supporting moving start times for middle- and high-school students to no earlier than 8:30 AM. (1) Our schools currently begin their day before 8:00 AM. Many people think teens stay awake late because they are on their phone, playing video games, or watching television. While these are sometimes factors, in fact, the opposite is actually true: teens are on their phones or other devices because they are awake. With the hormonal changes of adolescents, the sleep/wake cycle in teens is actually affected. Melatonin, a hormone produced by the body to promote sleep, is not released in teens until later in the day. In addition, teens continue to need more sleep than adults: 8.5-9.5 hours per night. The combination of not feeling sleepy until later, needing extra sleep, and an early start at school results in students being tired during the school day due to lack of adequate sleep.
Studies have shown that teens don’t just use a later school start to stay up later, either. They actually sleep. When schools shift start times later, teens sleep 30-60 minutes more each night. It also benefits student performance. One study estimates that scores on standardized tests increase 3 percentile points when school starts later. And lower-performing students tend to benefit more than average-that could have a significant impact on our district’s standardized test performance. Other benefits have been reported as well: increased attendance rates, lower depression rates, fewer car accidents, higher rates of eating breakfast, and fewer visits to the school nurse. There are a lot of potential benefits.
Obviously, there are trade-offs. Many issues would need to be considered, such as scheduling of extra-curricular activities, transportation logistics, time for after-school employment, and child care for younger siblings to name a few, However, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in considering all of the variables, supports delaying start times for middle- and high-school students to 8:30 AM or later. Educate Seguin believes it is an idea worthy of serious consideration and study. Having looked at the data, we urge the administration and Board of Trustees of Seguin ISD to look at the feasibility of later start times for our older students and to consider whether it might be an appropriate initiative to help our students achieve their best.
Together, we can do better.