Letter to the Editor: Parent Group Wants Later Start Time for High School

Parent Advocates for a Later Start (PALS) has a petition to force Northshore School District to change the start time for high school to 7:30 a.m.

By Annette Whelan

Is the Northshore School District high school start time of 7:10 a.m. too early?

NSD currently has the earliest high school bell time of any district in the region. , not to mention higher incidents of teen traffic accidents. These problems have been proven to be mitigated by later start times. Parent Advocates for a Later Start (PALS) was created in response to the very early start times of high schools in NSD. After studying the issue over the last three years, PALS has submitted several proposals to the school board demonstrating that there are ways of making modest transportation adjustments to achieve a later high school start time, all with very little or no additional cost. However, at the board meeting on March 27, the NSD school board voted to table discussion of later high school start times indefinitely.

Neighboring school districts, such as Lake Washington and Issaquah, have later high school start times between 7:30 – 8:00 a.m., and these districts have higher SAT scores than NSD, all the extracurricular programs and activities that NSD has and more, as well as students who succeed academically. With the current NSD high school start time of 7:10 a.m., our students have to get up at 5:45 or earlier in the morning; much earlier than students in neighboring districts. Could our NSD students achieve higher SAT scores and more if their high school start time was similar to Lake Washington and Issaquah, instead of the current start of 7:10 a.m.?  Published studies show that they can. 

Since the March 27 board meeting, PALS has had discussions with the school board.  PALS feels a high school start time of 7:30 a.m. (20 minutes later than the current 7:10 a.m. start) may be within reach for the 2012-13 school year, with a goal of an 8:00 a.m. start in the future as things in the district fluctuate. However, the board wants to see overwhelming support from the NSD community on this change.

Please visit the PALS petition site at:  http://www.change.org/petitions/northshore-school-board-start-high-school-later?share_id=kqhGNQKOEM&pe=d2e.  If you support this later start, please sign the petition, and in the add a reason section please write: “Yes, I support a 7:30 high school start time for the 2012-13 school year, with the goal of an even later start in the future”.  Students (13 years of age and over) are encouraged to sign the petition as well. For more information, please visit the PALS facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/112424038826467/  


Annette Whelan 



Nancy Chamberlain May 12, 2012 at 09:24 PM
My understanding is the study NSD hired a consultant to do showed the HS schedule could be changed by 20 min without effecting Jr High bus schedules. I think that is worth considering since it adds no cost. Who wouldn't want 20 extra minutes of sleep?
Annette Whelan May 13, 2012 at 04:35 PM
The following is a paragraph from the online magazine ‘Sleeping Resources’ Problems with Early Start Times . The amount of sleep adolescents get has a definite impact on their ability to learn. Sleep also affects memory, so students who do not get enough sleep may not remember what they learned. Researchers have found that students who do not get enough sleep do not perform as well academically as they could if they got enough sleep each night. Lack of sleep also has an effect on attention span and motivation. Some of the signs of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may actually be signs of sleep deprivation. These signs include difficulty paying attention, impulsive behavior and distractibility. All of these factors affect academic performance. Also, the transportation department does not set bell times it merely responds to a directive from the school board. PALS have looked at this thoroughly over the last 4 years and with a 20 minute later start for High School there should be no difference to the end times of the later starting elementary schools. There are numerous studies showing that moving starting times later has a positive impact. PALS have signatures of over 1,195 parents and students within the NSD who want a later start and this figure is increasing daily. School districts all over the country are moving their start times later for the benefit of their students. 7.10 a.m. is just a ridiculous time to start school!
Karen May 13, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Responding to Ken's comment above stating "Also, to imagine that start time affects SAT scores is tenuous, at best. Don't expect that argument to hold much water or influence many people." Ken, there have been numerous studies on the affect of moving start times later and seeing an increase in SAT scores. The following article, which was originally published in NY Magazine, found at this link: http://www.nldline.com/sleep_deprivation.htm, states: "Convinced by the mountain of studies, a handful of school districts around the nation are starting school later in the morning. The best known of these is in Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where the high school start time was changed from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30. The results were startling. In the year preceding the time change, math and verbal SAT scores for the top 10 percent of Edina’s students averaged 1288. A year later, the top 10 percent averaged 1500, an increase that couldn’t be attributed to any other variable. “Truly flabbergasting,” said Brian O’Reilly, the College Board’s executive director for SAT Program Relations, on hearing the results." The College Board's executive director said that the increase in scores couldn't be contributed to anything other than the later start time...
Karen May 13, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Ken, the article also states "Every study done shows a similar connection between sleep and school grades—from a study of second- and third-graders in Chappaqua to a study of eighth-graders in Chicago. The correlations really spike in high school, because that’s when there’s a steep drop-off in kids’ sleep. Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota surveyed more than 7,000 high schoolers in Minnesota about their sleep habits and grades. Teens who received A’s averaged about fifteen more minutes sleep than the B students, who in turn averaged eleven more minutes than the C’s, and the C’s had ten more minutes than the D’s. Wahlstrom’s data was an almost perfect replication of results from an earlier study of more than 3,000 Rhode Island high schoolers by Brown’s Mary Carskadon. Certainly, these are averages, but the consistency of the two studies stands out. Every fifteen minutes counts." Yes, every 15 minutes counts in a teen's sleep. PALS is asking for a 20 minute later start for high school students, and a 15 minute later start for junior high students. You should read the article...
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. June 12, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Karen and Annette are correct. The research on the health, safety, equity, educational, and equity effects of going back to more traditional school hours is overwhelming - and you'd have a heard time finding a health professional, sleep scientist, or educator familiar with the evidence who would disagree. The problem isn't evidence but politics and misunderstanding. For more info, check out Success Stories on the website of StartSchoolLater.net, the national coalition I co-direct that is working to ensure healthy, evidence-based school hours for all. PALS is one of our coalition partners, and we wholeheartedly support their efforts. In addition, we continue to deliver a national petition requesting a minimum acceptable school start time to decision makers in Washington DC, a move that would make it easier for local systems to prioritize health and learning when they set schedules: http://signon.org/sign/promote-legislation-to.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=1521139


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