Sample Advocacy Letter (outline format)

August 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

This sample letter letter below (here in docx) includes excerpts from a May 23, 2012 article authored by RAND Corporation scientist Wendy Troxel, Ph.D.edward-koren-writer-wears-a-shakespeare-sweatshirt-as-he-works-over-a-typewriter-new-yorker-cartoon Citations to studies and articles supporting Dr. Troxel’s assertions are presented in an outline format. Two alternative sample letters are available; here (comprehensive overview) and here (focuses on academic achievement before addressing health/welfare issues).

 

Your Name
Street Address
City, State/Zip
Phone, fax, and/or email

Today’s date

Addressee
Street Address
City, State/Zip

Dear Superintendent Last Name and Members of the School Board,

I am the parent/guardian of a child attending School Name. The School Name bell schedule requires children to begin morning classes time period before the earliest start time proposed by any expert for these students. (See expert recommendations, infra.) To safeguard the welfare and intellectual potential of these children, sleep scientists recommend a delay in morning classes until 8:30 a.m., or later. I am writing to request that the School District implement healthy start times for middle and/or high school students.

In May of 2012, Wendy Troxel, a RAND Corporation behavioral and social scientist, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, joined by more than 50 of her colleagues, cautioned Pittsburgh Public Schools against implementing a plan to advance high school start times by 30 minutes to 7:36 a.m., or by 60 minutes to 7:06 a.m., in order to save $1.2 million in transportation costs.

“Robust evidence has long demonstrated the adverse consequences of early school start times for teenagers’ academic, mental, social and physical well-being. And no, they can’t just go to bed earlier — their hormones won’t let them. [¶] Keeping the ultimate goal of our education system in mind (to prepare students to become contributing members of society), evidence suggests that earlier school start times are associated with significant reductions in academic achievement — with the strongest effects among the most economically disadvantaged students. [¶] We understand there is no easy fix for the Pittsburgh public schools’ budget problems. But making a short-sighted decision that flies in the face of unequivocal scientific evidence would, in the long term, cost the city of Pittsburgh far more in terms of lost wages, higher rates of crime, more motor vehicle accidents and increased rates of obesity and associated health complications. [¶] Before deciding to move up start times — whether by an hour or a half hour — the Pittsburgh school board should weigh against a negligible savings in dollars the considerable costs to our children and to our society. [¶] As scientists, parents and members of the Pittsburgh community, we strongly oppose making school start times earlier, even by a half hour.” (Troxel, The high cost of sleepy teens (May 23, 2012) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

Economists from Columbia University and the University of Michigan “conservatively” estimate that shifting middle and high school start times “from roughly 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.[,]” will increase academic achievement by 0.175 standard deviations on average, with effects for disadvantaged students roughly twice as large as advantaged students, at little or no cost to schools; i.e., a 9 to 1 benefits to costs ratio when utilizing single-tier busing, the most expensive transportation method available. (Jacob & Rockoff, Organizing Schools to Improve Student Achievement: Start Times, Grade Configurations, and Teacher Assignments (Sept. 2011) Hamilton Project, Brookings Inst., pp. 5-11, 21, n. 7 [considering study by Cortes, et al. (here), distinguishing study by Hinrichs (here)].) “This impact is equivalent to an additional two months of schooling.” (Policy Brief, Organizing Schools to Improve Student Achievement: Start Times, Grade Configurations, and Teacher Assignments (Aug. 2011) Brookings Inst., Hamilton Project, p. 4.) “When translated into earnings, the average student who starts school later would make about $17,500 more over the course of her life.” (Ibid.; Jacob & Rockoff, Organizing Schools to Improve Student Achievement: Start Times, Grade Configurations, and Teacher Assignments, supra, Hamilton Project, Brookings Inst., pp. 6, 10 [accord].)

(a) Joining other Harvard educators in endorsing later start times (e.g., here, here, here, herehere, pp. 382-383), Professor of Sleep Medicine Susan Redline advises that 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. classes begin too early for adolescent students to obtain sufficient sleep and serve to interrupt REM sleep. (Powell, Bleary America needs some shut-eye: Forum points to schools, hospitals, factories as ripe for sleep reform (Mar. 8, 2012) Harvard Science.) The biological preference for later sleep/wake patterns commences with puberty. (O’Malley & O’MalleySchool Start Time and Its Impact on Learning and Behavior, publish. in, Sleep and Psychiatric Disorders in Children and Adolescents (Ivanenko edit., Informa Healthcare 2008) pp. 79-81, 83-84.) A recent longitudinal study “demonstrated that adolescent changes in sleep (delayed sleep phase and disrupted sleep) are evident prior to the bodily changes associated with puberty.” (Wolfson & Richards, Young Adolescents: Struggles with Insufficient Sleep, publish. in, Sleep and Development (Oxford Univ. Press, El Sheikh edit. 2011) p. 268.) Adolescents require 9 or more hours of sleep per night. (O’Malley & O’Malley, supra, pp. 79-80.) Sleep-deprivation prevails among teenagers attending schools with 7:30 a.m. start times. (See, e.g., Ming, Koransky, Kang, Buchman, Sarris, & WagnerSleep Insufficiency, Sleep Health Problems and Performance in High School Students (Oct. 20, 2011) Clinical Medicine Insights: Circulatory, Respiratory & Pulmonary Medicine 5, pp. 71-79.) “[S]tudents who start school at 7:30 a.m. or earlier obtain less total sleep on school nights because of earlier rise times.” (Millman, edit., Excessive Sleepiness in Adolescents and Young Adults: Causes, Consequences, and Treatment Strategies (Jun. 2005) 115 Pediatrics 6, p. 1776.)

(b)   “[O]n school days adolescents are obtaining less sleep then they are thought to need, and the factor with the biggest impact is school start times. If sleep loss is associated with impaired learning and health, then these data point to computer use, social activities and especially school start times as the most obvious intervention points.” (Knutson & Lauderdale, Sociodemographic and behavioral predictors of bed time and wake time among U.S. adolescents aged 15–17 years (Mar. 2009) 154 J. Pediatrics 3, p. 426.) “School schedules are forcing them to lose sleep and to perform academically when they are at their worst.” (Hansen, Janssen, Schiff, Zee, & Dubocovich, The Impact of School Daily Schedule on Adolescent Sleep (Jun. 2005) 115 Pediatrics 6, p. 1560, italics added.) Consistent with previous studies, the 2011 National Sleep Foundation poll found only 14% of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 reported getting the recommended number of hours of sleep on school nights. (2011 Sleep in America Poll: Communications Technology in the Bedroom (Mar. 2011) Nat. Sleep Foundation, p. 40; see also, 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data User’s Guide (Jun. 2012) Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, pp. 74, 86; Teens and Sleep Poll a Wake-Up Call, Pediatric Sleep Experts Say (Mar. 2006) Brown Univ.) “Sleep deprivation among adolescents appears to be, in some respects, the norm rather than the exception in contemporary society.” (Roberts, Roberts, & Duong, Sleepless in adolescence: Prospective data on sleep deprivation, health and functioning (2009) 32 J. Adolescence, p. 1055.)

(c)   The District Name schedule will continue to have middle and high school students in class while melatonin pressures them to sleep (Later Start Times for High School Students (Jun. 2002) University Minn.), thus impairing academic performance. (Carrell, Maghakian, & West, A’s from Zzzz’s? The Causal Effect of School Start Time on the Academic Performance of Adolescents (Aug. 2011) 3 Am. Economic J.: Economic Policy 3, pp. 62-81; Edwards, Early to Rise? The Effect of Daily Start Times on Academic Performance (Dec. 2012) 31 Economics of Education Rev. 6, pp. 970-983.) The study by Carrell, et al., supra, found “that when a student is randomly assigned to a first period course starting prior to 8 a.m., they perform significantly worse in all their courses taken on that day compared to students who are not assigned to a first period course. Importantly, we find that this negative effect diminishes the later the school day begins.” (Carrell, Maghakian, & West, A’s from Zzzz’s? The Causal Effect of School Start Time on the Academic Performance of Adolescents, supra, 3 Am. Economic J.: Economic Policy 3, p. 63, italics added.) This outcome is supported by Edwards’ seven-year study which found a 1.5 to 3 percentile gain in middle school standardized math and reading scores when start times were delayed by one hour, to 8:30 a.m. Edwards notes the benefit is greatest for the bottom half of the distribution. (Edwards, Early to Rise? The Effect of Daily Start Times on Academic Performance, supra, 31 Economics of Education Rev. 6, pp. 970-983.) A 2009 study of Chicago public high schools found students beginning morning classes at 8 a.m. showed marked deficiencies in performance in first period math courses throughout the term. (Cortes, Bricker, & Rohlfs, The Role of Specific Subjects in Education Production Functions: Evidence from Morning Classes in Chicago Public High Schools (2012) 12 B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy 1, Art. 27, p. 30.) Students were also more likely to be absent (by 3.6 to 6.8 days per year depending on the subject) in first period relative to other periods. (Id., p. 23.) By contrast, truancy/tardiness rates fell at St. George’s School (a Rhode Island boarding school) when start times were delayed from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. (Owens, Belon, & Moss, Impact of Delaying School Start Time on Adolescent Sleep, Mood, and Behavior (Jul. 2010) 164 Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 7, pp. 608-614.) Researchers also noted “significant improvements” in student alertness following the 30-minute delay. (Id., p. 608; see also, Vedaa, Saxvig, Wilhelmsen-Langeland, Bjorvatn, & Pallesen, School start time, sleepiness and functioning in Norwegian adolescents (Feb. 2012) Scandinavian J. Educational Research, pp. 55-67.)

(d)   Teens will be driving while their circadian biology dictates sleep, impairing psychomotor performance and increasing the likelihood of driving crashes. (See, Vorona, Szklo-Coxe, Wu, Dubik, Zhao, & Ware, Dissimilar Teen Crash Rates in Two Neighboring Southeastern Virginia Cities with Different High School Start Times (Apr. 2011) 7 J. Clinical Sleep Med. 7, pp. 145-151; Danner, & Phillips, Adolescent Sleep, School Start Times, and Teen Motor Vehicle Crashes (Dec. 2008) 4 J. Clinical Sleep Med. 6, pp. 533–535.) Automobile accidents represent the leading cause of death among teenagers, accounting for approximately 40% of teen fatalities annually and billions of dollars in attendant costs. (CDC, Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety, Teen Drivers: Fact Sheet.) “[T]his is a strong reason in itself to change school start times.” (ClineDo Later School Start Times Really Help High School Students? (Feb. 27, 2011) Psychology Today.)

(e)   A CDC study published in August 2011 found an association between health-risk behaviors and diminished weeknight sleep in adolescents, corroborating findings from previous studies. (McKnight-Eily, Eaton, Lowry, Croft, Presley-Cantrell, & Perry, Relationships between hours of sleep and health-risk behaviors in US adolescent students (Aug. 5, 2011) Preventive Medicine, 1-3; Pasch, Laska, Lytle, & Moe, Adolescent Sleep, Risk Behaviors, and Depressive Symptoms: Are They Linked? (Mar. 2010) 34 Am. J. Health Behavior 2, pp. 237-248; O’Brien & MindellSleep and Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents (2005) 3 Behavioral Sleep Medicine 3, pp. 113-133.) A July 2011 study by University of Nebraska at Omaha criminologists found “preliminary evidence that sleep-deprived adolescents participate in a greater volume of both violent and property crime…. Further, our results indicate that every little bit of sleep may make a difference. That is, sleeping 1 (hour) less (i.e., 7 hours) than the recommended range increased the likelihood of property delinquency, and this risk increased for each hour of sleep missed.” (Clinkinbeard, Simi, Evans, & Anderson, Sleep and Delinquency: Does the Amount of Sleep Matter? (Jul. 2011) J. Youth & Adolescence, p. 926.)

(f)   Following the 30 minute start time delay to 8:30 a.m. at St. George’s School, Dr. Judith Owens found the number of students reporting symptoms of depression declined (Owens, Belon, & Moss, Impact of Delaying School Start Time on Adolescent Sleep, Mood, and Behavior, supra, 164 Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 7, p. 613), confirming outcomes from the Minnesota longitudinal studies (high school start times delayed to 8:30 a.m., Edina, 8:40 a.m., Minneapolis). (Wahlstrom, Changing Times: Findings From the First Longitudinal Study of Later High School Start Times (Dec. 2002) 86 Nat. Assn. Secondary School Principals Bull. 633, pp. 3, 13.) Given the relationship between depression and suicidal ideation in adolescents, Dr. Owens commented the finding was “particularly noteworthy.” (Owens, Belon, & Moss, Impact of Delaying School Start Time on Adolescent Sleep, Mood, and Behavior, supra, 164 Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 7, p. 613; Sleep Experts Concerned About St. Paul Start Time Change (Jun. 3, 2011) CBS.) Suicide is the third leading cause of death among U.S. adolescents, in recent years accounting for 10% or more of all teen fatalities. (CDC Nat. Vital Statistics System, Mortality Tables.) Recent data put the suicide rate in the general population at 2.7%. (Miniño, Xu, & Kochanek, Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2008 (Dec. 9, 2010) 59 Nat. Vital Statistics Rep. 2.)

CDC scientists report, “Delaying school start times is a demonstrated strategy to promote sufficient sleep among adolescents.” (Eaton, McKnight-Eily, Lowry, Croft, Presley-Cantrell, & Perry, Prevalence of Insufficient, Borderline, and Optimal Hours of Sleep Among High School Students – United States, 2007 (2010) 46 J. Adolescent Health, p. 401.) In 2009, scientists writing in the journal Developmental Neuroscience succinctly stated the uniformly held position of sleep experts on school start times:

“For policy makers, teachers and parents, these results provide a clear mandate. The effects of sleep deprivation on grades, car accident risk, and mood are indisputable. A number of school districts have moved middle and high school start times later with the goal of decreasing teenage sleep deprivation. We support this approach, as results indicate that later school start times lead to decreased truancy and drop-out rates.” (Hagenauer, Perryman, Lee, & Carskadon, Adolescent Changes in the Homeostatic and Circadian Regulation of Sleep (2009) 31 Developmental Neuroscience 4, p. 282; see also, Carskadon, For better student health, start school later (Sept. 5, 2012) Brown Univ.; Carskadon, Vieira, & Acebo, Association between puberty and delayed phase preference (1993) 16 Sleep 3, p. 261.)

Please follow the evidence when determining the time of day school begins.

Yours truly,

Your Name/Title/Affiliation

Start Time Recommendations, etc.:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes insufficient sleep in adolescents as a public health issue, endorses the scientific rationale for later school start times, and acknowledges the potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement. The American Academy of Pediatrics lends its strong support to school districts contemplating delaying school start times as a means of optimizing sleep and alertness in the learning environment and encourages all school administrators and other stakeholders in communities around the country to review the scientific evidence regarding school start times, to initiate discussions on this issue, and to systematically evaluate the community-wide impact of these changes (e.g., on academic performance, school budget, traffic patterns, teacher retention). [¶] Pediatricians and other pediatric health care providers (e.g., school physicians, school nurses) should provide scientific information, evidence based rationales, guidance, and support to educate school administrators, parent-teacher associations, and school boards about the benefits of instituting a delay in start times as a potentially highly cost-effective countermeasure to adolescent sleep deprivation and sleepiness. In most districts, middle and high schools should aim for a starting time of no earlier than 8:30 AM. However, individual school districts also need to take average commuting times and other exigencies into account in setting a start time that allows for adequate sleep opportunity for students.”—American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement. (Adolescent Sleep Working Group, Committee on Adolescence, & Council on School Health, School Start Times for Adolescents (Aug. 25, 2014) 134 Pediatrics 3, pp. 646, 647, Recommendation no. 4.)

“Synchronizing education start times to adolescent biology is the obvious way to address the problem of chronic sleep deprivation currently experienced by adolescents on school days. Astronomical time data and changes in sleep patterns from international studies show at the age of 10 biological wake time is about 06:30, so synchronized school starting times would be 08:30-09:00. At the age of 16 biological wake time is about 08:00, and synchronized school start times 10:00–10:30, and at 18 biological wake time is about 09:00, and synchronized education start times 11:00–11:30.”—Paul Kelley, Ph.D., Honorary Research Associate, Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford, Steven Lockley, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Russell Foster, Ph.D., F.R.S., Head of Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, Chair of Circadian Neuroscience, University of Oxford, Jonathan Kelley, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, University of Nevada, Reno. (Kelley, Lockley, Foster, & Kelley, Synchronizing education to adolescent biology: ‘let teens sleep, start school later’ (Aug. 1, 2014) Learning, Media and Technology, pp. 8-9, citation omitted.)

“[F]urther research now shows that in adolescence protecting our children’s health and improving their learning means school starting times later than 9 a.m.”—Paul Kelley, Ph.D., author, educator. (Kelley, The New York Times and school starting times in adolescence- a breakthrough? (Apr. 3, 2014) Making Minds.)

“[G]iven the analyses summarized here, there are clear benefits for students whose high schools start at 8:30 AM or later. This would include, for teens who reported they got at least 8 hours of sleep per night, that they were more likely to say they have good overall health and were less likely to report being depressed or using caffeine and other substances (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, other drugs). Other positive findings include a significant reduction in local car crashes, less absenteeism, less tardiness, as well as higher test scores on national achievement tests. … [¶] … [T]here are empirically-based positive outcomes for adolescents whenever the start time of their high school is moved to a later time—with the starting time of 8:30 AM or later clearly showing the most positive results.”—Kyla Wahlstrom, Ph.D., Director, Center for Applied Research & Educational Improvement (CAREI), Univ. Minn.; Beverly J. Dretzke, Ph.D., Research Associate, Univ. Minn.; Molly F. Gordon, Ph.D., Senior Research Analyst, Univ. Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research; Kristin Peterson, M.A., Research Fellow, Univ. Minn.; Katherine Edwards, B.A., Research Assistant, Univ. Minn.; Julie Gdula, M.A., Research Assistant, Univ. Minn. (Wahlstrom, Dretzke, Gordon, Peterson, Edwards, & Gdula, Examining the Impact of Later School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study (Feb. 2014) CAREI, Univ. Minn., p. 52.)

“There are at least three policy changes that will assist in the prioritization of sleep: 1) healthcare policy requiring the inclusion of sleep questions on health service intake forms and health provider prompts, in much the same way that smoking or exercise are routinely discussed; 2) education policy mandating school start times no earlier than 9 a.m. for adolescents; and 3) medical education policy limiting the hours of medical interns’ and residents’ shifts.”—Alison Chopel, M.P.H., DrPH Candidate, Director, California Adolescent Health Collaborative, Public Health Institute (Chopel, Sleep is Healthy: A Simple, Old Idea with Big Consequences (Spring 2013) Policy Matters J.)

“During the school year, many teenagers find themselves nodding off during their early morning classes as high school bells ring around 7:30 a.m. While parents and teachers may attribute falling asleep during class to staying up too late checking Facebook statuses and texting with friends, medical evidence suggests that an early school start time before 8:30 a.m. is a greater culprit because classes are occurring when students’ brains and bodies are still in biological sleep mode.”—Kyla Wahlstrom, Ph.D., CAREI Director, Univ. Minn. (Wahlstrom, Later High School Start Times Improve Student Learning and Health (Aug. 24, 2012) Univ. Minn., College of Education & Human Development, Vision 2020 Blog.)

“High school should start at 8:45 a.m., or better at 9 o’clock.”—Jeffrey Deitz, M.D. (Deitz, Children’s Sleep: Time For A Wake-Up Call (Dec. 11, 2011) Huffpost: Healthy Living.)

Sleep medicine and pulmonary specialist Dr. Robert Geck suggests high schools begin classes between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. (Arja, Classes too early for teens? (Jul. 18, 2011) My Fox Tampa Bay.)

“The study strongly recommends that middle schools should consider delaying the school starting time by at least one hour. Such a change could enhance students’ cognitive performance by improving their attention level, increasing rate of performance, as well as reducing their mistakes and impulsivity.”—Dubi Lufi, Ph.D., Emek Yezreel College, Emek Yezreel, Israel, Orna Tzischinsky, Ph.D., Emek Yezreel College, Emek Yezreel, Israel, Sleep Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, Stav Hadar, M.A., Emek Yezreel College, Emek Yezreel, Israel. (Lufi, Tzischinsky, & Hadar, Delaying School Starting Time by One Hour: Some Effects on Attention Levels in Adolescents (Apr. 2011) 7 J. Clinical Sleep Med. 2, p. 137, italics added [study shifted start times from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.].)

“Probably, 9 o’clock would be the ideal start time for high schools.”—Judith Owens, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Sleep Medicine, Children’s National Medical Center. (Burns, No More Dozing Off in First Period (Aug. 1, 2010) Miller-McCune.)

Martin Ralph, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, recommends that high school classes begin at 11 a.m. (Kruszelnicki, Teenage Sleep (May 3, 2007) ABC Science; see, Lim, Maas Pushes for Later Start Time at Schools (Feb. 26, 2009) Cornell Daily Sun [Harvard study finds teen brain doesn’t fully awaken until 11 a.m.]; Preckel, Lipnevich, Boehme, Brandner, Georgi, Könen, Mursin, & Roberts, Morningness-eveningness and educational outcomes: the lark has an advantage over the owl at high school (2011) British J. Education Psychology, pp. 1-21 [among 9th and 10th graders, larks (morningness chronotypes) outperform owls (eveningness chronotypes) on exams administered from 10 a.m. to noon].)

“A long-term solution to chronic sleep deprivation in adolescents that others conducting research on adolescent sleep behaviors support may mean that high school start times should be no earlier than 8:30 A.M.”—Heather Noland, M.Ed., James Price, Ph.D., M.P.H., Professor, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, University of Toledo, Joseph Dake, Associate Professor, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, University of Toledo, & Susan Telljohann, Professor, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, University of Toledo. (Noland, Price, Dake, & Telljohann, Adolescents’ Sleep Behaviors and Perceptions of Sleep (2009) 79 J. School Health 5, p. 230.)

“The often serious impact of this chronic under-sleeping is now evident in both high school and middle school students. [¶] For all students one of the most salient—and correctable—social factors contributing to student sleep deprivation, is school start times. [¶] The circadian biology of sleep would predict that among individual children, those who are predisposed to be ‘night owls’ would be even more likely to suffer the consequences of sleepiness in a school system that imposes start times before 9 a.m. [¶] In brief, there are two features of the circadian rhythm especially important to understand regarding sleep in teenagers: (1) the drowsy signal that cues bedtime is dependent on the dampening of circadian-dependent alertness; and (2) the physiology of puberty causes a shift in the circadian rhythm which delays the timing of this biological bedtime by about an hour. These two biological factors underlie the main difficulties faced by adolescents attending school before 9:00 a.m.: the general problem that one cannot easily fall asleep before their biological bedtime, and the additional problem that puberty creates a tendency for even later bedtimes. [¶] Though research has not yet identified an ideal school schedule, the wealth of evidence reviewed in this chapter and elsewhere strongly suggests that students have a better opportunity to be rested and ready to learn by delaying school start time to 8:30 a.m. or later.”—Edward O’Malley, Ph.D., former Assistant Professor of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, former Director, Norwalk Hospital Sleep Disorders Center, Mary O’Malley, M.D., Ph.D., former Clinical Instructor, Department of Psychiatry, New York University, former Fellowship Director, Norwalk Hospital Sleep Disorders Center. (O’Malley & O’Malley, School Start Time and Its Impact on Learning and Behavior, publish. in, Sleep and Psychiatric Disorders in Children and Adolescents, supra, pp. 79, 83-84, 89.)

“Adopt a single start time (8:30-3:30) for all … Middle and High Schools.”—Chattanooga Crime Task Force Committee, Roger Thompson, Ed.D., Committee Chair, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. (Chattanooga Crime Task Force Comm. (2008) Crime Task Force Rep., p. 15, Recommendation No. 7.)

“Right now, high schools usually start earlier in the morning than elementary schools. But if school start times were based on sleep cycles, elementary schools should start at 7:30 and high schools at 8:30 or 8:45—right now it’s the reverse. School systems should be thinking about changing their start times. It would not be easy—they would have to change the busing system—but it would increase their student’s sleep time and likely improve their school performance.”—Richard Schwab, M.D., Associate Professor of Pulmonary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Co-Director, Penn Sleep Center. (Start School Later in the Morning, Say Sleepy Teens (May 20, 2007) Am. Thoracic Society; cf. Epstein, Chillag, & Lavie, Starting times of school: effects on daytime functioning of fifth-grade children in Israel (May 1998) 21 Sleep 3, 250-256; see also, Scott, The Squeeze on Zs, Part 2: Teens Struggle with Sleep Time (Feb. 6, 2012) TownandCountry-Manchester Patch [“It really makes sense for elementary school students to go to school first.”---John Spivey, M.D., board certified specialist, pediatric sleep medicine, pediatric pulmonology]; but see, Keller, Smith, Gilbert, Bi, Haak, & Buckhalt, Earlier School Start Times as a Risk Factor for Poor School Performance: An Examination of Public Elementary Schools in the Commonwealth of Kentucky (Jun. 2014) J. Educational Psychology, pp. 1-10 [middle and upper class elementary school students perform better on standardized tests at later starting schools; no change found for disadvantaged students]; Li, Arguelles, Jiang, Chen, Jin, Yan, Tian, Hong, Qian, Zhang, Wang, & Shen, Sleep, School Performance, and a School-Based Intervention among School-Aged Children: A Sleep Series Study in China (Jul. 10, 2013) Plos One [school age children starting school at 8:30 a.m. slept longer and reported less daytime sleepiness than children starting at 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m]; Epstein, Chillag, & Lavie, Starting times of school: effects on daytime functioning of fifth-grade children in Israel (May 1998) 21 Sleep 3, 250-256 [significant sleep deprivation reported for 5th grade students starting school at 7:10 a.m.].)

“Overall, many adolescents confront a major challenge if schools begin earlier than 8:30 a.m.; many schools start too early in the morning for adolescents to get adequate sleep, whether in the United States or in other countries such as Canada, Israel, Brazil, or Italy. [¶] [S]chool administrators are being urged to acknowledge the evidence and to adjust school schedules accordingly (e.g., delay high school start times).”—Amy Wolfson, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, College of the Holy Cross, Mary Carskadon, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry& Human Behavior, Brown University School of Medicine, Director of Chronobiology and Sleep Research, Bradley Hospital. (Wolfson & Carskadon, A Survey of Factors Influencing High School Start Times, supra, 89 Nat. Assn. Secondary School Principals Bull. 642, pp. 49, 50, citations omitted.)

“Schools with start times before 8:30 a.m. place students at a disadvantage in terms of arousal and alertness, not only for early morning classes but also throughout the day because adolescents’ biological rhythms are out of sync with typical school routines.”—Peg Dawson, Ed.D., N.C.S.P., Staff Psychologist, Center for Learning and Attention Disorders, Seacoast Mental Health Center, past president of the New Hampshire Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the International School Psychology Association. (Dawson, Sleep and Adolescents (Jan. 2005) Counseling 101, p. 12; see also, Dawson, Sleep and Sleep Disorders in Children and Adolescents: Information for Parents and Educators (2004) Nat. Assn. School Psychologists Resources.)

Citing research to support their position, the California Student Advisory Board on Legislation in Education recommended delaying start times throughout the state to 8:40 a.m. The student board noted the detrimental effects of early start times on attendance, academic performance, and behavior. The board’s fiscal analysis predicted that delaying start times would increase attendance “resulting in more ADA money for schools” and test scores “will rise. Higher test scores (API) will insure greater levels of federal funding.” The students concluded, “even with the implementation of state-sponsored pilot programs, the costs will be far outweighed by the benefits of the program.” (Cal. Assn. Student Councils (2004) Cal. Student Advisory Bd. on Legislation in Education, School Starting Time, pp. 10-11.)

“Although providing a home environment to promote healthy sleep is the first step to eliminating sleep deprivation in adolescents, increased public awareness of the impact of sleep on learning and behavior is important. For this to occur legislation to ensure that high school start times not begin before 9:00 a.m. may help in reducing sleep deprivation leading to improved academic performance and behavior[.]”—Georgios Mitru, M.Ed., Daniel Millrood, M.Ed., M.S.P.T., New York Medical College faculty, Jason H. Mateika, Ph.D., Professor of Physiology, Wayne State University. (Mitru, Millrood, & Mateika, The Impact of Sleep on Learning and Behavior in Adolescents (Jun. 2002) 104 Teachers College Record 4, p. 721.)

“In 1913, Terman and Hocking (1913) reported that sleep in adolescents in the western U.S. was longer than that previously reported in studies of English (n=6180) (Ravenhill 1910) or German (Bernhard 1908) children and adolescents. One of the factors that they felt explained this difference was that school start times were an hour later (9:00 AM) in the U.S. than those in Germany and England (7:00–8:00 AM). They go so far as to state, ‘The American practice of beginning at 9 o’clock is far wiser, and should never be changed unless for very special reasons.’ ” (Colrain & Baker, Changes in Sleep as a Function of Adolescent Development (2011) 21 Neuropsychology Rev., p. 13, quoting Terman & Hocking, The sleep of school children; its distribution according to age, and its relation to physical and mental efficiency (1913) J. Educational Psychology, p. 271.)

Implicit Recommendations 

On January 26, 2012, at  Brown University Professor of Medicine Richard Millman encouraged Barrington High School administrators to delay morning classes by one hour from the present 7:40 a.m. start time. (Rupp, Barrington Studies Later School Start Time For Teens (Jan. 27, 2012) East Greenwich Patch.)

In 2008, following a presentation by Cornell University Professor of Psychology James Maas concerning the “conflict” between “academic clocks” and “teenagers’ body clocks,” Deerfield Academy delayed start times from 7:55 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. (Lim, Maas Pushes for Later Start Time at Schools, supra, Cornell Daily Sun.)

“Of all the arguments I’ve heard over school start-times, not one person has argued that children learn more at 7:15 a.m. than at 8:30.”—Mark Mahowald, M.D., Professor of Neurology, University of Minnesota Medical School, visiting Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University. (Bronson, Snooze or Lose (Oct. 7, 2007) N.Y. Magazine, web p. 3.)

Less Specific Recommendations 

“These analyses suggest that earlier high school-start times contributed to an increase in crash rates amongst teenagers in the United States. They are additional data suggesting that high school start times should be delayed to increase the amount of sleep that teenagers get during the school week and, hence, reduce the amount of sleep deprivation they incur.”—Stuart Quan, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Senior Physician, Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, commenting on the study by Vorona, et al., supra, finding higher teen crash rates in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where high school classes began at 7:20—7:25 a.m., than in adjacent Chesapeake, Virginia, where classes started at 8:40—8:45 a.m. (Quan, Podcast Transcript (Apr. 2011) 7 J. Clinical Sleep Med. 2, p. 1.)

The single most profound difference we could make [i]n education … would be to let teens sleep on nature’s schedule (midnight to 9 a.m. or later).—JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., Educator and Psychologist. (Large, Shedding light on the teen brain (Jun. 8, 2009) The Seattle Times.)

Russell Foster, Ph.D., F.R.S., Head of Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, Chair of Circadian Neuroscience, Oxford University, says teenagers are biologically wired to stay up late and wake late, making a 9 a.m. start too early. (Critchley, Sleepy teens want later start (May 4, 2007) Herald Sun.) In 2007, Professor Foster suggested classes not begin until the afternoon because teens’ body clocks can be delayed between two and four hours. (Making teens start school in the morning is ‘cruel,’ brain doctor claims (Dec. 1, 2007) London Evening Standard; see also, Hansen, Janssen, Schiff, Zee, & Dubocovich, The Impact of Daily Schedule on Adolescent Sleep, supra, 115 Pediatrics 6, pp. 1555-1561 [high school seniors perform better in the afternoon than in the morning on vigilance tests, symbol copying, visual search tasks, and logical reasoning].) More recently, however, Professor Foster has endorsed “an extra hour in bed” and expressed approval of the UCL Academy “later” start time; i.e., 10 a.m. (Foster, Why teenagers really do need an extra hour in bed (Apr. 22, 2013) New Scientist; see, Parsons, Could a one-hour lie-in improve pupils’ exam results? UK schools ‘could move class start times back to 10am’ (Mar. 18, 2013) Yahoo! News.)

General Counsel

“The timing of education is also important. There is clear evidence for a phase shift during adolescence, with adolescents going to bed later and rising later than children. This phase shift is largely biological, with adolescents typically unable to fall asleep at earlier times. For the most part, school systems have not considered this adolescent phase shift, with many systems traditionally having earlier (rather than later) start dates for high school than for grade school students. By recognizing the shift in biological rhythms during adolescence and delaying school start times accordingly, classroom experience can be matched to the times when adolescents are most alert and attentive.”—Donna Coch, Ed.D., Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Education, Dartmouth College, Kurt Fischer, Ph.D., Charles Bigelow Professor of Education, Director, Mind, Brain, and Education Program, Harvard University, Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Professor of
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center. (Coch, Fischer, & Dawson, Human Behavior, Learning, and the Developing Brain: Typical Development (Informa Healthcare 2010) pp. 382-383.)

“For policy makers, teachers and parents, these results provide a clear mandate. The effects of sleep deprivation on grades, car accident risk, and mood are indisputable. A number of school districts have moved middle and high school start times later with the goal of decreasing teenage sleep deprivation. We support this approach, as results indicate that later school start times lead to decreased truancy and drop-out rates.”(Hagenauer, Perryman, Lee, & Carskadon, Adolescent Changes in the Homeostatic and Circadian Regulation of Sleep, supra, 31 Developmental Neuroscience 4, p. 282; see also, Venkateshiah, Teenagers and Sleep (Nov. 10, 2011) Am. College Chest Physicians, Chest Physician Art.)

“[C]hildren and adolescents with restricted sleep are at greater risk for increased oppositionality and irritability, as well as reduced attention, executive functioning, processing speed, behavioral/emotional regulation, motivation and academic achievement. … Certainly this causal link between sleep loss and impaired functioning in children and adolescents provides the impetus for consideration of delaying school start times, particularly for adolescents, who are experiencing a natural delay in circadian rhythm.” (Crabtree & Witcher, Impact of Sleep Loss on Children and Adolescents, publish. in, Sleep and Psychiatric Disorders in Children and Adolescents (Informa Healthcare 2008, Ivanenko edit.) p. 144.)

“[S]chools need to incorporate into their pedagogical proposal measures that would reduce the impact of phase delay on the student’s performance. [¶] The first step would be to reconsider the school’s temporal organization, in particular its class schedules, and systematize the results of possible interventions that aim to reduce the student’s daily sleepiness and thereby improve performance. [¶] The changes we propose are apparently simple modifications, such as delaying the beginning of morning classes.” (Louzada, Teixeira da Silva, Peixoto, & Menna-Barreto, The Adolescence Sleep Phase Delay: Causes, Consequences and Possible Interventions (Jul. 2008) 1 Sleep Science, p. 52.)

“Students at later starting middle and high schools obtain more sleep due to later wake times and, in turn, function more effectively in school.” (Wolfson, Spaulding, Dandrow, & Baroni, Middle School Start Times: The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep for Young Adolescents (Aug. 15, 2007) 5 Behavioral Sleep Med. 3, p. 205.)

“Recent research has focused on the effects of daytime sleepiness in the student population. Poor sleep quality has been linked to increased tension, irritability, depression, more frequent use of alcohol and illicit drugs, accidents, and lowered academic performance. Sleep problems are common and unrecognized in the student group. The influence of sleep on learning and behavior has recently captured the attention of school districts across the United States and school administrators increasingly need to weigh the factual information about the biology of student sleep patterns against the competing demands of teachers’ work preferences and athletic and after-school schedules. [¶] [T]here is increasing data that early school start times result in increased daytime sleepiness, and altering the times to a later time period has positive effects on academic performance and sleepiness.” (Bijwadia & Dexter, The Student with Sleep Complaints, publish. in, Sleep: A Comprehensive Handbook (Lee-Chiong, edit., Wiley-Liss 2006) pp. 959, 960.)

“There is a need for educators to be more aware of the impact of school start times and academic scheduling, and to consider sleep problems as potential factors in students who fail to achieve or who exhibit behavioural problems. While it may be administratively convenient to begin high school classes early, there is strong evidence in our data, supported by the literature, suggesting that later start times would be more appropriate for teens.” (Gibson, Powles, Thabane, O’Brien, Molnar, Trajanovic, Ogilvie, Shapiro, Yan, & Chilcott-Tanser, Sleepiness” is serious in adolescence: Two surveys of 3235 Canadian students (May 2006) 6 Bio Med Central Pub. Health 116, p. 8.)

“Where possible, efforts should be made to encourage lighter homework loads and later school start times, so that adolescents can go to bed and wake up at times that are more suited to their bodily rhythms.” (Fredriksen, Rhodes, Reddy, & Way, Sleepless in Chicago: Tracking the Effects of Adolescent Sleep Loss During the Middle School Years (Jan./Feb. 2004) 75 Child Development 1, p. 94.)

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