Freedom to Learn Experiment -delinquent boys make progress when freed from lessons

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/freedom-learn/201709/another-example-less-teaching-leading-more-learning

From Psychology Today Sept 2017

Another Example of Less Teaching Leading to More Learning

Delinquent boys made huge academic gains when freed from classroom lessons.

Posted Sep 26, 2017

Some of the most fascinating experiments in education occurred in the 1920s and ‘30s, and almost nobody talks about them today. That was an era when progressive ideas about education were in the air. Even public schools were experimenting with the idea that less teaching and more opportunity for self-direction would pay big educational dividends.

Benezet’s experiment on the non-teaching of arithmetic

In a previous post (here) I described an experiment conducted by L. P. Benezet when he was superintendent of schools in Manchester, New Hampshire, in the late 1920s and early ‘30s. He altered the curriculum for half of the schoolchildren in the poorest schools in his district, so they would not be taught arithmetic until 6th grade. He found that those children, at the beginning of 6th grade, before they had received any arithmetic instruction at all, performed much better than the others on math story problems—the kinds of problems that require common sense applied to numbers. They were even better on those than were the kids in the rich schools, all of whom had been studying arithmetic all along. Of course, they were behind the others in doing calculations (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing) set up in the usual school way, but by the end of 6th grade they had fully caught up to the others on that and were still ahead on story problems.

Benezet concluded that the early teaching of arithmetic was not only a waste of everyone’s time, but was counterproductive to the eventual learning of arithmetic. In his words, the early teaching of arithmetic was “chloroforming the children’s minds,” leading them to lose their common sense about anything to do with numbers. Nobody in education talks about Benezet’s experiment these days. Few people in education seem to have even heard of it. Benezet’s results fit well with research showing that school children make greater gains in mathematical reasoning during summer vacation than they do during the school year (see here), which is another finding that nobody in education talks about.

Williams’s experiment in which delinquent boys were freed from being taught

Now here’s yet another bit of education research that nobody today talks about. It was published in 1930 in the academic journal School and Society under the title “An Experiment in Self-Directed Education,” by Herbert Williams, the teacher who carried out the research.

The practical problem Williams was trying to address was what to do about delinquent boys, who were frequently absent from school and were causing trouble in the community. For the sake of this experiment, he went through the Juvenile Court records for the city of population 300,000 and identified the “worst” boys he could find. To that group the school principals added a few more, whom they considered to be their “most serious problems.” He ended up with a group that “ranged in age from eight to nearly sixteen, in IQ from 60 to 120, and included colored, Polish, Hungarians, and native white Americans.”

The experiment was started in January, 1924, and lasted until the beginning of June that year. During that period the boys were excused from regular school classes and, instead, were assigned to a special room created for them in a technical school. The room was equipped with desks, blackboards, a large table, and a collection of books, including storybooks, nonfiction works, and textbooks for the various grades. The boys were given standard academic achievement tests in January and again, four months later, in May.

And now, I know no better way to convey what happened than to quote Williams directly:

“No formal instruction was given. In the beginning of the experiment the children were told to keep busy and refrain from annoying any of the others. This was the only rule that was enforced. Otherwise, they were permitted to occupy themselves as they saw fit.  The instructor [Williams] from time to time passed from one to another to see what was being done. One child might be busily occupied in copying a picture from one of the books; another might be reading a fairy story; another occupied with a problem in arithmetic; another reading a history; others might be looking up places on a geography map; and still others would be studying about some machinery.

“Whenever a child was found manifesting an interest in some particular thing, opportunity and encouragement were given him to develop that interest…The child with an interest and aptitude for mechanical work was given an opportunity to do this sort of work in the high-school machine shop. The same was true for those interested in automobile mechanics, woodworking, printing and the like. Arrangements were made for recreation at the neighborhood YMCA…” 

“Each child was told of his accomplishments on the achievement test and encouraged to make up for any deficiencies, but he was not forced to devote his time to these. It was a revelation to the writer how these children turned naturally from one subject to another. A boy might spend an entire day on some book that he was reading. The next day he might devote to arithmetic. One 10-year-old became interested in working square root problems and worked all of these he could find in the arithmetic book. A colored boy became interested in history and read all the histories we could supply. His accounts of interesting historical events kept the entire group keenly interested as he related them. Whenever one of the boys found something in his reading which he felt would prove interesting he was permitted to tell it to the group. However, they were not required to pay attention to the speaker if they wanted to continue what they were doing.

“Many of the boys went to the blackboard to work arithmetic problems, primarily for the activity involved. They made up certain games involving arithmetic processes… For example, two or more boys would start at a given signal to add by seventeens to a thousand. The rivalry was often intense, and for some of the boys the increase in speed and accuracy in the fundamentals was striking. The reports of the various boys on interesting material read would stimulate other boys to read the same thing or something of like nature. It is quite possible, too, that the desire to obtain recognition from their fellows motivated them to do tasks that would not have been otherwise attempted.” 

“Although a total of twenty-six boys were in attendance in this special experimental group for shorter or longer periods, only thirteen were present for both the January, Form A, and May, Form B, Stanford Achievement Tests. This was due to out-of-school adjustments, transfers and other causes. Social adjustment was given first importance, and completeness of the experimental records was not allowed to prevent placing a boy on a farm, for example, if this met a pressing need.”

Here are the results from the achievement tests:

Over the 4 months period of this experiment, the thirteen children gained an average of slightly over 15 months in language age, 14 months in arithmetic; 11 months in reading; 11 months in science; and 6 months in both history and literature. By the end of the experiment all of these children were above grade level overall. The three boys who showed the least gains were also the three who, for reasons of health or family problems, were most often absent from the group. The average gains for the ten students who were regularly present were 17.4 months for language and arithmetic; 15.8 months for science; and 15.5 months for reading.

In concluding the article, Williams wrote:

“The most striking fact is that such marked improvement could and did result from such informal, self-directed activity. The writer was not greatly interested in the educational development of these boys. The problem of social adjustment entirely outweighed it in his estimation. He used the special room merely to get better acquainted with the individual boys and to keep them from violating the compulsory attendance law. Whether they learned reading, arithmetic, geography, history and the other subjects was considered relatively unimportant…It should be remembered, too, that these boys spent less time in the classroom and more in shops and the gymnasium and on the playground than is usually the case…In accounting for this increase in educational achievement the writer can only surmise that…a personal interest on the part of the supervisor in each child’s home conditions, neighborhood, recreation, health and the like as well as an interest in the child individually may have stimulated the child.”

My own suspicion, not mentioned by Williams, is that age mixing also played a role. The boys ranged in age from 8 to almost 16. Self-directed education always works best in age-mixed environments (see here and here). Also, of course, these boys were free to spend as much time as they liked on whatever they were studying, which allowed them to dig much more deeply than is ever possible in a standard classroom; and because they were always free to talk with one another they learned from one another. While regular classrooms are perfectly designed to prevent the development and pursuit of genuine interests, this “classroom” did not prevent these.

Wouldn’t it be great if education authorities would take a look back at some of these old research studies and try repeating them today? Today education authorities seem to think the only solution to educational deficiency is more teaching—more of the same of what already isn’t working. But research such as Benezet’s and Williams’s suggests that the solution might lie in less teaching and more trust.

Basic Books, with permission
Source: Basic Books, with permission

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m not a fan of standardized academic testing, nor of any sort of school system that sees high scores on such tests as a primary educational goal. In my view (and I suspect Williams’s as well), the years that we think of as school years should be devoted to discovering who you are and what you like to do, to developing skills in what you like to do, to acquiring social and emotional competence, and to gaining the confidence that you can learn whatever you want, on your own initiative, at the time you need to know it. That all comes from real Self-Directed Education, where young people are free to explore the world in ways that are not dependent at all on a special room with textbooks, nor on encouragement to improve scores on someone else’s concept of “achievement.” Williams’s experiment is, to me, just one more example showing that the kinds of “achievements” that we fret and sweat about in our schools are actually quite easily and painlessly attained by young people who for one reason or another decide to attain them and are free to do so in the ways that work best for them.

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And now, what do you think about all this? This blog is, among other things, a forum for discussion, and your views and knowledge are valued and taken seriously by me and other readers. Make your thoughts known in the comments section below. As always, I prefer if you post your comments and questions here rather than send them to me by private email. By putting them here, you share with other readers, not just with me. I read all comments and try to respond to all serious questions if I feel I have something useful to add to what others have said.

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See also: Free to Learn; the website of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education; and follow me on Facebook.

References

Herbert D. Williams (1930).  Experiment in Self-Directed Education.  School and Society, 31, 715-718.

Should High Schools Rethink How They Sequence Math Courses?

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2019/11/high_schools_need_to_rethink_math_pathways_new_report_says.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2&M=58979552&U=2796909&UUID=4a2ceba1d9c3dbf87bcf2d1235a5f82a&fbclid=IwAR0jUHpyiD5HnCg7ysoISOiRlVaCc5LhfHAOVBDqtaWS_KsSctT19GjXh-0

hould High Schools Rethink How They Sequence Math Courses?

Most students don’t aspire to careers that will require calculus, so high schools must create sequences of math courses that reflect the wide variety of young people’s occupational goals, a math advocacy group argues in a report published Wednesday.

“Mathematics education needs to support students’ transitions to and through college, whether they’re pursuing STEM disciplines or other promising majors that prepare students for careers in other fields like law, politics, design and the media,” says the report by Just Equations, a group that’s trying to get school districts to consider the equity of their math offerings.

Too often, “irrelevant math hurdles” are becoming stumbling blocks for students who don’t aspire to careers in science, technology, engineering, or math. Additionally, schools do poorly at nurturing and recruiting black and Latino students into challenging math classes, the report says.

To serve all students well, schools must start thinking differently about their math courses, write co-authors Phil Daro, a lead author of the Common Core State Standards in math, and Harold Asturias, the director of University of California-Berkeley’s Center for Mathematics Excellence and Equity.

The authors propose a model that would eliminate the classic Algebra 1-Geometry-Algebra 2 model in favor of a pattern that would have all students in the same math classes in 9th and 10th grade, followed by a set of choices beginning in 11th grade.

Some of those choices would be aimed at students who will need the highest levels of math, while others would be for students in what the authors call “branch” fields—a term they coined to distinguish these students from STEM students in general, and from those who aspire to jobs that require calculus.

Courses Designed With All Students in Mind

An 11th grade course for “branch” students might delve into statistics, game theory, and math modeling. They could build students’ skills at symbolic notation, and use functions to model real-world situations. They “should not be watered-down versions of STEM topics, but instead topics with their own heft and potential relevance in branch fields” like data science, statistics, probability, digital graphics, decision theory, robotics, and game design, the report said.

All courses and pathways should be rigorous, and prepare students for college without demanding that they master types of math they won’t need down the road, the report says.

The report includes examples of course sequences from districts that have ventured into this work.

The five high schools in Escondido Unified School District in California now use common math courses for all 9th and 10th graders, and offer a choice of two courses for 11th grade. Math 3C includes precalculus, while Math 3S is “common-core math with statistics,” Abi Leaf, a math content specialist for the district, said during a webinar Tuesday. In their senior year, STEM-oriented students can take AP Calculus their senior year, and other students can choose between Math 4 or AP Statistics.

Escondido teachers and counselors use a “decision tree” to help students think through their math options, starting with questions about their career goals. Leaf said the district has also eliminated remedial classes, and does its best to provide support for students where they need it. Teachers are participating in “teaching studios” to help them get used to “having all students in their classes,” and to absorb the district’s new “value system” in math, Leaf said.

Escondido-math.PNG

Even still, after a few years of using the new approach, Escondido is concerned that the Math 3S is “considered a pathway for students of color,” Leaf said, with more white students opting for Math 3C. “It’s one of the biases of our system that we’re working against,” she said.


Read about San Francisco’s work to “de-track” math.


Oregon has been rethinking its math pathways, too. About 50 high schools are piloting versions of a new model that has common courses in 9th and 10th grade, followed by options in 11th. State content specialists in math and career-tech-ed designed the pathways together, in recognition of students’ widely varying goals and needs.

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The 9th and 10th grade courses cover a year’s worth of Algebra, and a half year each of geometry and data science, said Mark Freed, a math specialist with the state department of education. Schools can cover that content sequentially, or integrate it over the two years, he said. Courses in 11th grade include Algebra 2/precalculus, for students who aspire to careers that would require calculus, and, for other students, a variety of applied math classes, such as “construction geometry,” “financial algebra,” and “math in computer science.”

“The idea is to create math systems that all our students can see themselves in, and see the relevance of math,” Freed said. “We have a system that works for [future] math majors. We need one where all students see themselves as ‘math people.'”

Choosing Instead of Placing

Rethinking math courses should go hand-in-hand with shifting the way schools think about assigning students to courses, Daro and Asturias wrote in the new report. Instead of “placing” students in classes based on adults’ perceptions of their mastery, schools should engage in a dialogue with students, asking what their career goals are and offering information about each math pathway so students and their families can decide the best match.

That approach will likely mean that many students need support to be successful in their chosen math classes, the report said, so schools will have to provide things like summer bridge courses, or classes that students can take alongside their regular math classes—a model colleges call “co-requisite” courses—instead of getting mired in remedial math courses.

Teachers will need to shift instructional strategies as well, from a model that values the students who quickly raise their hands to a model that encourages “curious and thoughtful” dialogue that includes all students, the report says. Teachers and counselors will need to work with students to heal their “damaged math identities,” it said, since so many students, ill-suited to the classic math course progression, end up feeling like they’re bad at math.

For the new kinds of courses and sequences to work in high school, colleges will have to embrace supportive policies, the report said. Too often, colleges require completion of Algebra 2, or use calculus as a “signal” of students’ potential, the report said. Some universities are starting to crack those doors open, dropping the Algebra 2 expectation and using courses like Advanced Placement statistics as signs of a wider variety of math mastery, the report said.

The themes in the new report aren’t new. “Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics,” released last year by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, urged schools to end tracking and create new pathways that would have shared courses for the first two years, and then diverge into various options in students’ third and fourth years that reflect their goals and interests.

joint statement in 2012 by NCTM and the Mathematics Association of America urged schools to leave calculus to universities, and cultivate high school students’ expertise in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.

The Art of Speaking Should be Taught

https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/46546/why-the-art-of-speaking-should-be-taught-alongside-math-and-literacy?fbclid=IwAR0W5efiuvxZaqeGav39wTTD29v1nNxogCRaWi8RuDs7WltlQ15sH_X2wIU

Why The Art of Speaking Should Be Taught Alongside Math and Literacy

Students at School 21 practice structured verbal tasks in every subject and class. (Edutopia)

Classrooms in the U.S. often focus most attention on literacy and math, largely because those skills are considered foundational and are tested. However most people will also need to communicate their thoughts and ideas to other people through oral language, and yet effective communication strategies are often not taught with the same precision and structure as other parts of the curriculum.

School 21, a public school in London has made “oracy” a primary focus of everything they do. From the earliest grades on up teachers support students to find their voice, express differing opinions politely, and challenge one another’s thinking. These are skills called for in the Common Core, but can be hard to find in many classrooms because students haven’t been taught how to make “turn and talks” truly effective.

The Edutopia team visited School 21 and captured some amazing videos of students practicing their communication skills with support from teachers.

Another key element of the School 21 program is “well-being,” a social emotional learning curriculum that is once again embedded throughout students’ experience of school. In the following video, the communication skills teachers have helped foster become supremely important as even young students grapple with difficult topics like race, difference, diversity and kindness.

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Because oral communication is a core tenet of School 21, students continue to build on their skills throughout school until arguing an opinion and defending with research are almost second nature to them. The school also tries to help students see the progress they’ve made by offering culminating moments when they can show off their public speaking skills in front of real audiences.

Speaking is a part of almost every classroom, but it can be easy to assume that students already know how to do things like challenge an idea or back up an argument with evidence. In reality, those oral communication skills must be explicitly taught like other core skills in school. And a well-spoken, confident young person will have occasion to use those communication skills throughout his or her life. Peter Hyman, School 21 cofounder and executive head teacher, says, “We need to elevate speaking to the same level as reading and writing.”

School is Boring – Ed Week

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/01/09/the-kids-are-right-school-is-boring.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news1&M=58716912&U=2796909&UUID=4a2ceba1d9c3dbf87bcf2d1235a5f82a

The Kids Are Right: School Is Boring

January 8, 2019

Editor’s Note: Kevin Bushweller is the Executive Editor of EdWeek Market Brief. This analysis is part of a special report exploring pressing trends in education. Read the full report: 10 Big Ideas in Education.

The most meaningful learning happens outside school.

Take a moment to think about that statement.

It does not mean that meaningful learning is not happening inside schools. Or that all learning that occurs outside schools is meaningful.

But there is a growing argument that the most powerful, relevant learning for today’s students is happening when they connect with the rapidly changing world beyond the school walls to solve problems, explore ideas, rally for a cause, or learn a new technical skill.



Is asking better questions the key to nurturing student curiosity? Scroll down for a Q&A with Andrew P. Minigan.


I have been covering K-12 education for more than 30 years. During that time, I have watched my three sons go through the public schools, enter college, and join the workforce; my daughter is now making her way through high school. They had wonderful teachers and attended very good schools, for the most part.

What was largely missing, though, was a feeling that they were being prepared for the technological and economic changes ahead or how to make a difference in the world. They were not solving real problems and exploring new ideas—rather, they were turning in assignments and getting grades. And for all four of them, the most meaningful learning often happened when they weren’t in school.

That is also a theme that is emerging in our Education Week series, Faces of the Future, which tells stories about ambitious, creative young people who are pushing well beyond the boundaries of school, finding new ways to learn advanced computer science, tackle big challenges, map an uncharted future, and sometimes get in trouble.

Consider the case of Emma Yang, a teenager who Education Week reporter Benjamin Herold profiled last fall as part of this series. She is the youngest student to ever take part in a mentorship program to build “computational thinking” at Wolfram Research, a private company that creates computational technologies.

Initially, Emma worked on a project for Wolfram analyzing police-department data to identify patterns that might explain where, when, and why cars crash in New York City. Then she used machine-learning techniques to teach computers to recognize road signs, a vital feature for self-driving cars. She followed that up by using those same techniques to detect cancerous tumors in human lungs.

“Sometimes, when I’m curious to learn more, people will say, ‘You won’t understand ’til later,'” she told Education Week. “But at my mentorship program, they give me all the information I want, and I can go as deep into it as I want. I really appreciate that.”

Emma’s curiosity and enthusiasm to dive deeply into a topic reminded me of when I took my then-elementary-school-age daughter to visit my older brother’s University of Virginia biochemistry lab. My daughter was fascinated by the dry ice bubbling up in water, the multi-colored protein solutions in beakers, and computers seemingly everywhere. She was one of those little kids who liked to take various liquids and solids in the house and mix them up to see what would happen—so when she got to see the real thing, her eyes were bulging with excitement. And it became even more meaningful when she learned her uncle was doing research to develop new treatments for cancer.

But back at school, inside the classroom, it was a different story. There were few, if any, lab experiments and eventually science became boring and irrelevant to her. It was no longer about exploring ideas and solving problems. It was about memorizing facts and figures and preparing for quizzes and tests.

Few schools have figured out how to connect meaningful learning outside of school to recognition inside it. I saw that firsthand with one of my sons, who was in a video editing and production specialty program in high school.

As a junior, he took the initiative to teach himself the ins and outs of iMovie to produce a highlight video of him playing lacrosse that he could send to college coaches. All the learning took place outside school on his own time.

He had to learn how to take a bunch of DVDs with hours of lacrosse footage and load them into iMovie. Then he had to edit the footage down to the best highlights, organize the clips into a video narrative that flowed naturally, strip the unnecessary audio, and produce a video that was less than five minutes long. Then he had to write emails to coaches promoting the video and often follow up with phone calls.

He was learning writing skills, video editing skills, and how to market himself. To this day, he says it was the most meaningful learning experience he had during high school.

But when he asked the school if he could spend time in class working on the project or get extra credit for it, the answer was no. He was told the school did not have the flexibility to allow that because it was not part of the official curriculum.

A perceived lack of opportunity to pursue what interests them inside school can lead some kids down a mischievous path.

That was the case for Jeremy Currier and Seth Stephens, who hacked into their Rochester Hills, Mich., school district network and got access to logins, passwords, phone numbers, locker combinations, lunch balances, and the grades of all 15,000 students in the school system, according to a story by Herold that triggered a lively debate on edweek.org about student discipline and the future of work.

Now the incident and the district’s decision to expel the boys, Herold writes, are raising a big question: How can schools develop the potential of kids with advanced computing skills and a tendency for probing boundaries—before things go in the wrong direction?

The answer might be by connecting those kids with meaningful learning opportunities outside of school.

Kids Sleep Start School Later

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/12/12/676118782/sleepless-no-more-in-seattle-later-school-start-time-pays-off-for-teens?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2042&fbclid=IwAR3YSALcXBoTjW-q25wg6danm5eppq8-0ksWRIo-yg8MZVkgDBmxrqp_iig

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.”

Improving Teacher Empathy Improves Student Behavior

Improving Teacher Empathy to Improve Student Behavior