Kids Sleep Start School Later

Sleepless No More In Seattle — Later School Start Time Pays Off For Teens

Many American teenagers try to put in a full day of school, homework, after-school activities, sports and college prep on too little sleep. As evidence grows that chronic sleep deprivation puts teens at risk for physical and mental health problems, there is increasing pressure on school districts around the country to consider a later start time.

In Seattle, school and city officials recently made the shift. Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, the district moved the official start times for middle and high schools nearly an hour later, from 7:50 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. This was no easy feat; it meant rescheduling extracurricular activities and bus routes. But the bottom line goal was met: Teenagers used the extra time to sleep in.

Researchers at the University of Washington studied the high school students both before and after the start-time change. Their findings appear in a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. They found students got 34 minutes more sleep on average with the later school start time. This boosted their total nightly sleep from 6 hours and 50 minutes to 7 hours and 24 minutes.

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“This study shows a significant improvement in the sleep duration of students, all by delaying school start times so they’re more in line with the natural wake-up times of adolescents,” says senior author Horacio de la Iglesia, a University of Washington researcher and professor of biology.

The study also found an improvement in grades and a reduction in tardiness and absences.

Seattle’s switch to later start times is still unusual for school districts around the country, where school typically starts around 8 a.m. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement calling on school districts to move start times to 8:30 a.m. or later for middle and high schools so that students can get at least 8 1/2 hours of sleep a night. But according to the National Center For Education Statistics, only 17 percent of public middle and high schools, including some school districts in Minnesota and Kentucky, start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

Getting a little extra sleep in the morning can be vital for teens, explains de la Iglesia. Once children reach puberty, their biological clock changes. “They fall asleep later than older adults and young kids,” he says.

Teens’ biological bedtime is more like midnight, he says, and if parents expect them to go to sleep at 10 p.m., it often doesn’t work. “They’ll just lay in bed and not fall asleep,” he says. Of course, this means teens need to sleep later in the morning. “To ask a teen to be up and alert at 7:30 a.m. is like asking an adult to be active and alert at 5:30 a.m.,” says de la Iglesia.

In the study, researchers compared two separate groups of sophomores enrolled in biology classes at two Seattle high schools, Franklin High School and Roosevelt High School. The first group of 92 students, drawn from both schools, wore wrist monitors to track their sleep for two-week periods in the spring of 2016, when school still started at 7:50 a.m. The wrist monitors collected information about light and activity levels every 15 seconds so researchers could determine when students were awake and when they were asleep.

In 2017, after schools changed start times to nearly one hour later, researchers looked at a group of 88 students taking the same biology classes. They also wore wrist activity monitors and kept a sleep diary.

You might think that when school starts later, teens will just stay up later. But that’s not what researchers found. Bedtimes stayed relatively constant and kids caught some extra sleep in the mornings. “We’ve put them in between a rock and a hard place where their biology to go to bed later fights with societal expectations,” says lead researcher Gideon Dunster, a graduate student studying sleep at the University of Washington.

“Thirty-four minutes of extra sleep each night is a huge impact to see from a single intervention,” says de la Iglesia.

The study also shows a link between getting more sleep and better academic performance. Students who took the biology class after the later start time got final grades that were 4.5 percent higher than students who took the class when it started earlier. That could be the difference between an A and a B, says de la Iglesia. He says sleep deprivation makes it more difficult to learn and to retain new information.

Even though researchers can’t be sure that more sleep gave students an academic edge, the school’s biology teachers say the difference was striking.

“When we started at 7:50 a.m. there would always be stragglers who were having a hard time getting here,” says Cindy Jatul, who teaches biology at Roosevelt High School. Students were groggy and noticeably different from students who took her class later in the day. “For example, if I gave them a project in the lab, they would be the most likely class to mess up,” she says.

Franklin High School science teacher A.J. Katzaroff says “there was lots of yawning” when school started at 7:50 a.m. Students had a hard time engaging in the work or in brief discussions, which is extremely unfortunate. “Some of the best practices in science education have students talk, discuss and investigate together and those are all very hard when the brain is not fully powered,” Katzaroff says.

After the time switch, many more kids were able to engage in deeper thought and scientific discourse. Katzaroff says. The number of students who were tardy or absent also decreased significantly, putting Franklin High School — which is in a low-income neighborhood — on par with students from a higher-income neighborhood. The later school start time gave them a better opportunity to make it to school on time.

“We need to give every bit of equity we can for kids in lower socio-economic families,” says Dr. Cora Collette Breuner, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Breuner was not involved in the study.

Breuner calls the findings “exciting” and says that while an extra 34 minutes of sleep might not sound like a lot to the average person, when it comes to sleep “every minute counts.”

Breuner says that while only a handful of school districts nationwide have switched to later start times, that is changing “as counties and cities like Seattle make changes and see positive benefit.”

Stop Driving Your Kids to School

Want to change people’s minds about cycling? Start with the school drop-off and go from there.

I am the father of a child who’s almost three years old, and most mornings, I take him to his preschool by bicycle, just as I did with his older brother until he graduated to grade school and the bus.

Why do I do this? Is it because I love to ride bikes? Is it because I believe in their power to transform our cityscapes? Is it because I want my children to grow up taking for granted the idea that using bikes for transportation is a normal, practical, and healthy way to get around?

Sure. I mean all that sounds good, anyway.

But there’s an even more urgent reason that I’ve transported my most precious cargo by bicycle all these years, and it transcends everything I mentioned above. Here is that reason:

Getting anywhere near a school with a car is a monumental pain in the ass.

If you enjoy driving to the airport, going to the mall on Black Friday, or the abject futility of automotive clusterfucks in general, then by all means, driving a kid to school is for you. If, however, you’d rather undergo colonoscopy prep than sit in traffic with a bunch of self-absorbed parents all competing to see who can get their little darlings closest to the entrance, then you’ll do anything to avoid the soul-crushing indignity of this dehumanizing ritual. So while I’m a cyclist and therefore choose to circumnavigate the whole shitshow by bike, the truth of the matter is that if bicycles didn’t exist, I’d probably be up on the roof of my building in a wingsuit and a BabyBjörn.

But as self-serving as my choice may be, I do allow myself to feel smug about it, because I know that I’m helping to make the world—or at least my neighborhood—a far better place. Parents get a bad rap for being selfish, and it’s mostly unwarranted (if you don’t wanna hear babies crying on airplanes, then buy a Gulfsream), but the one area in which they do deserve it is their propensity for causing traffic jams by sticking their cars where they don’t belong. For years, I’ve been getting letters from both my kids’ schools imploring parents to stop double-parking and making life miserable for everyone within a one-mile radius, and I smile to myself as I throw it in the trash knowing I’m part of the solution and not the problem.  In fact, I’m this close [indicates tiny distance with fingers] to getting a “One Less Asshole Double-Parked in Front of the School” sticker printed up for my bike.

Not all parents have a blithe disregard for the world outside their minivans. Some are just helpless victims of The Way You’re Supposed to Do Things, and they go through the motions despite themselves, like the Day-O scene in Beetlejuice. These are the parents who will ask questions about my cargo bike and talk about how they too would like to take their kids to school this way. But it never seems to happen. The only change I see as the years go by are more speed bumps to slow the enraged drivers who mash the accelerator as soon as there’s a lull in the parental motorcade. The irony of it all is that the roads are most dangerous in exactly the places where they should be the safest—all because of our insistence on driving kids to school.

Nevertheless, I certainly don’t blame these parents for driving to school. A century of automotive marketing and lobbying has duped families into believing that the car is the responsible choice. And even as the city adds bike lanes and (ostensibly) encourages people to commute by bicycle you never seem to hear anybody in an official capacity advocate for people using bikes to get kids to school. (Or for older kids to ride there themselves.) On a municipal level, we’re just getting comfortable enough to send the adults unto the breach, but the unspoken message seems to be that children should be spared the exposure.

This is a shame, because once you unlock the convenience of riding with kids you’re really onto something. Freeing yourself from the misery of the school drop-off is just the beginning. Then there’s getting to the playdate, and the weekend activity, and the park outing. Before you know it, you’re using the bike to run errands too, and suddenly that garden trough on wheels starts making a hell of a lot of sense.

“Do we really need two cars?” you may start asking yourself. “Do we even need one?”

As for the perception that transporting children by bicycle is somehow more dangerous than driving, 40,000 car-crash deaths per year suggest otherwise, and I have yet to see any numbers or hear any horror stories that lead me to believe carrying kids on bikes is any more dangerous than pushing them around in strollers. The truth is you’re never more engaged than when you’ve got a kid on your bike. Meanwhile, Forgotten Baby Syndrome is a thing, so there you go.

And here we are. We’re perfectly comfortable with the idea of cycling as a recreational activity involving thousands of dollars worth of equipment, and we’re increasingly comfortable with the idea of cycling as a form of urban commuting. But until the bike truly becomes part of the family, it will always remain on the fringes.

Maybe this is why people remain resistant: once the full convenience of the bicycle is unleashed on society, then the takeover will be complete.

Filed To: Biking / Culture / Kids

A Low-Budget Gift Guide for Your Favorite Cyclist

This list has been checked twice for your convenience

One of the greatest things about cycling is that you can spend as much or as little money as you want on it. In fact, once you’ve got the bike, it’s pretty much free to ride it, unless you’ve got an expensive Gran Fondo addiction or something.

Similarly, when the holidays roll around, you don’t need to spend a fortune to delight the cyclist in your life with a gift. Forget the $2,000 carbon wheelset. Here are a few gifts you can buy with the tiny balance sitting in that Paypal account you forgot you had.

Socks ($15 to $20)

Ordinarily, when it comes to uninspired gifts, nothing underwhelms like a pair of socks. It’s the present that says, “You exist, and you have feet.” Cyclists, however, get genuinely excited about socks: they’re our “pieces of flair,” and sock choice is really the only way we get to express ourselves stylistically (unless you count really bad calf tattoos), especially if we’re on a team and all have to dress the same.

Of course you can’t just get your favorite cyclist a pack of regular old tube socks and call it good; this is cycling, so they have to be special socks—and by special I mean more expensive. Still, even a really sweet pair of cycling socks only costs about as much as two cups of coffee…well, okay, that special coffee that cyclists drink, but even so you’re getting off pretty easy here.

Inner Tubes ($5 to $10)

Hey, not all gifts have to be dazzling: sometimes you’re just looking for a cheap, practical little stocking stuffer. To that end, why not give the gift of butyl? See, when you’re a cyclist you can never have too many inner tubes, and while it may seem a bit cold and impersonal to give them as gifts, just remember you’re talking about people who get excited about socks for chrissakes.

Plus, in a way an inner tube is an even more meaningful gift, since when was the last time a sock saved you from being stranded 90 miles from home? (That was a rhetorical question, though please feel free to address your epic “How My Left Sock Saved My Life” pitch to Outside’s features department.)

Just make sure you get the right size and valve type, and that your gift recipient doesn’t ride tubeless. Or, if they do ride tubeless, you can always buy them a bottle of sealant instead, which is seasonally appropriate as it’s exactly the same color and consistency of egg nog. (Warning: do not attempt to drink sealant—or egg nog for that matter.)

A Tool Roll ($35 and Up)

Looking for a more personal gift? Something special, perhaps even handmade? An elegant yet practical item that they’ll carry with them at all times and think of you whenever they use it? Well, if you were shopping for a normal person you might get them a wallet or a handbag. However, this is bikes we’re talking about, so the nearest equivalent is a really fine tool roll.

Sure, a saddlebag will let you carry the basics, but with a tool roll you can practically carry enough stuff to rebuild your entire bicycle, and you can do so stylishly and unobtrusively. Plus, they’re far classier: tool rolls are to saddle bags as crystal tumblers are to Dixie cups.

The Gift of Smugness ($25 and Up)

This may blow your mind, but lots of people work really hard to make cycling better for the rest of us, and despite what you may have heard they’re not all underwritten by George Soros. Does your mountain biker support IMBA? Is your bike commuter a member of the local advocacy group? If not, make a modest donation on their behalf, or buy an item that benefits them. Bikes Not BombsWorld Bicycle ReliefStar Track, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association…there are all sorts of two-wheeled organizations dong all kinds of good work who need your support.

(Note: this is an especially thoughtful gift if the person you’re shopping for is a roadie, since when left to their own devices, roadies won’t do anything to help anybody.)

A Skateboard ($100 and Up. This is by far the most expensive gift on the list, but it’s worth it.)

Hey, we’re all adults here, so let’s be honest: sometimes you’ve got ulterior motives over the holidays, and giving a gift is less about pleasing someone than it is about teaching them a much-needed lesson. Is there a middle-aged person in your family who’s spending too much time on the bike? Was mommy late to the school play because she flatted on the group ride? Did hubs postpone your anniversary celebration because it fell on the same weekend as the Filthy Nebraska 350-Mile Gravel Grinder? Are you sick of suffering through your wife’s ride reports at dinner?

Well, now you can recoup all the time the bike has stolen from you by giving the gift of a skateboard! Yes, no fit person over 40 can resist the allure of a skateboard, nor can they stand on one without sustaining an injury just bad enough to keep them off the bike for awhile and force them to appreciate you! Just find a reissue deck from the halcyon days of their youth, sit back, and let physics and nostalgia do the rest: “Whoa, a Rob Roskopp! I used to have one just like this! You know, I used to be pretty good…”[Stands on skateboard, immediately breaks coccyx.]You’ll be enjoying that romantic anniversary dinner in no time—though your partner may be sitting on a doughnut.

Filed To: Gifts / Socks / Bikes / Family
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Why Don’t Teachers Know Research About Reading

Why Doesn’t Every Teacher Know the Research on Reading Instruction?


Three recommendations for greater reading proficiency

October 26, 2018

Almost two decades ago, the National Reading Panel reviewed more than 100,000 studies and arrived at recommendations for how students should receive daily, explicit, systematic phonics instruction in the early grades. Why is this literacy research not more widely known? Why is the fact that reading skills need to be taught, and that there is a well-documented way to do it, not something highlighted in many teacher-preparation programs (or parenting books, for that matter)?

Recently, a remarkable audio-documentary by Emily Hanford went viral, shining a spotlight on such crucial literacy research—none of which is new, but much of which is unknown to today’s teachers. Like many in the literacy community, I worry about our failure to bring research into classroom practice. My concern is greatest for teachers who are being sent into classrooms without the tools they need to succeed. I’m hopeful this renewed interest will serve as a catalyst for overhauling reading instruction in our teacher-preparation programs. However, relying solely on better preparation for the next generation of teachers is a slow delivery system to children. The stakes are too high. We need more immediate solutions.

Only roughly one-third of our nation’s 4th and 8th graders can demonstrate proficiency on national tests, with students from low-income families and students of color faring the worst. When students can’t read, they have trouble learning; the great majority of students who fail to master reading by 3rd grade either drop out or finish high school with dismal lifetime earning potentials.

I’d like to build on the momentum Hanford’s piece has sparked to call attention to additional research-based practices that go hand-in-hand with the importance of phonics. As educators experience ‘aha’ moments about the need for stronger phonics instruction, let’s talk about some other literacy practices that need fixing in elementary classrooms. Here’s my short list of practices and resources to add to the conversation:

1. Let all kids read the good stuff. The pervasive practice of putting kids into reading groups according to their “just right” reading level has meant that large numbers of students receive a steady diet of below-grade-level instruction. The texts they’re reading don’t require them to decipher unfamiliar vocabulary, confront challenging concepts, or parse new and complicated language. Noted literacy researcher Timothy Shanahan has written extensively about why this is the wrong approach, documenting that “after 70 years there still isn’t any research supporting the idea of matching kids to just-right texts” after 1st grade—yet still the practice persists. This, despite research showing that the ability to handle complex text is the distinguishing characteristic between students who go on to do well in college and work and those who don’t.

See Also: How People Learn: A Landmark Report Gets an Update

Why would we deprive our youngsters of the opportunity to build this muscle in elementary school, when all that’s standing in the way of their doing so is the opportunity and the support that close reading can provide?

The Council of Chief State School Officers offers a host of resources to help teachers guide students with complex texts.

2. Build students’ general content knowledge. Some of the most profoundly important, yet under-recognized, reading research shows that students’ reading comprehension depends heavily on their background knowledge about the world—knowledge that comes largely from learning about science and social studies topics. When students know something about a topic, they are better able to read a text in which that topic is discussed, even when the sentence structure is complex or the words are unfamiliar. Cognitive science expert Daniel Willingham explains this principle clearly, and the Knowledge Matters Campaign expands on it further.

The implications for literacy instruction are enormous because young children are receiving less time with science and social studies content in their school day. According to a 2007 study, instructional time spent on these subjects dropped by an hour and a half per week since the 1990s. The diminished attention to these knowledge-building topics creates less fertile ground for reading comprehension to flourish and is a significant culprit in our stagnant national reading outcomes. Given that time is a scarce commodity in most schools, the takeaway for school leaders is to incorporate rich content, organized around conceptually-related topics, into the reading curriculum so that students learn new information about the world while they develop as readers. Student Achievement Partners has ready-made resources that teachers can pull into their classrooms.

3. Let quality English/language arts curriculum do some of the heavy-lifting.Poor-quality curriculum is at the root of reading problems in many schools. It is not an overstatement to say that a school that doesn’t have a phonics program is doing its students a huge disservice. Increasingly, the same can be said about the lack of intentionality for building students’ knowledge of the world and access to complex text. The current lack of educator know-how can be remedied by curriculum that points the way.

Fortunately, bolstered by emerging research about the “curriculum effect,” we’re in the midst of a curriculum renaissance. In recent years, a number of respected organizations have developed curricula that are tailor-built to both state standards and the latest research. Educator reviews conducted by organizations such as the nonprofit EdReports or Louisiana Believes can help schools easily identify the best curriculum for their context. No longer should classroom teachers need to scour the internet for materials. Instead, educators can spend their time focusing on how to become the best possible deliverers of thoughtfully arranged, comprehensive, sequential curriculum that embeds standards, the science of reading, and the instructional shifts described above.

I have great empathy for teachers who have labored under the weight of misdirected teacher preparation, insufficient curriculum, ever-shifting educational fads, and ever-increasing professional demands—and welcome the attention of journalists who are shining a light on the opportunity represented by the convergence of science and a new class of high-quality curriculum materials. Based on my own experiences with educators taking this improvement journey, significant reading gains are possible with the right support. Our students’ reading future can be bright—if we seize the moment.

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