Start Times and Elementary Students

Impacts of Start Time Change on Elementary School Students:

Arun Rath, What Earlier School Start Times Mean for Young Brains, WGBH, February 1, 2018 

Appleman, ER, K Stavitsky Gilbert, R Au (2015), School start time changes and sleep patterns in elementary school students, Sleep Health (the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation), 1(2). Depuis, I.N. (2015). The association between elementary school start times and students’ academic achievement in Wayzata Public Schools. Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, College of Education and Human development, University of Minnesota.
Finely Edwards,Do Schools Begin Too Early, Education Next, Summer 2012, Vol 12, No 3.
Hanover Research, Impact of School Start Time on Student Learning, February 2013

Heissel, Jennifer and Norris, Samuel, Rise and Shine: The Effect of School Start Times on Academic Performance from Childhood Through Puberty (April 20, 2016).

Keller, Peggy S. et al, Earlier School Start Times as a Risk Factor for Poor School Performance: An Examination of Public Elementary Schools in the Commonwealth of KentuckyJournal of Educational Psychology, online June 16, 2014.   [Response to Keller from Judy Owens]

Meltzer, Lisa J, Engaging the community in the process of changing school start times: experience of the Cherry Creek School District, Sleep Health, Vol 3, Issue 6, p472-8, December 2017

Kyla Wahlstrom, Elementary Feedback on Changed Start Times, Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, 1998

Lori Boyland, Michael W. Harvey, William Riggs and Barbara Campbell, Changing School Times to Combat Adolescent Sleep Deprivation: Perceptions of School Stakeholders, Journal of School Public Relations, Vol 36, Winter 2015, p 43-57.

Comments from researchers on elementary start times:

Kyla Wahlstrom,   Director, Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota

"Since I am an educational researcher, and not an M.D., I am VERY cautious about making concrete statements about human biology...From an educational policy decision standpoint, I am comfortable saying that young children generally do well with an early starting time, since they often "run out of steam" by about 2 PM. Late elementary starts mean late dismissals, and a dismissal time after about 2:45 can be very difficult for children who have been awake since 6 AM! Most school days last 6.75 hours for the students, so doing the math will tell us that elementary schools that start later than about 8:00 will have most children who are not fully engaged in learning tasks at the end of the day."

Dr. Judith Owens, lead author of the AAP Policy statement on school start times and Director of Sleep Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital:

"1) Elementary school children are much more likely to have a morningness circadian preference or chronotype and to be “morning larks” (fall asleep and wake earlier). The younger they are, the more likely this morning chronotype is their biologically based circadian rhythm. This is in direct contrast to adolescents who have a strong eveningness preference in association with pubertal onset.
2) Partly as a result of this circadian preference and as opposed to adolescents, they are biologically, environmentally and socially more amenable to manipulation of bedtimes (ie, to move sleep onset earlier)if required; this was demonstrated in the 2015 study in Sleep Health assessing the impact of changing start times from 8:20-9:15a to 7:45a in 3rd-5th graders. The resultant decrease in sleep duration was negligible in the 4th and 5th graders (-4 and -9 minutes respectively) due to earlier bedtimes largely off-setting earlier wake times, and the 3rd graders actually got 24 more minutes of sleep after the change due to earlier bedtimes and slightly later wake times. Thus, one could argue that elementary students (with parental enforcement of bedtimes and restriction of evening screen exposure) are not only able to obtain adequate sleep under conditions of earlier start times, but that this schedule change is more aligned with their circadian rhythms and thus actually benefits them in terms of alertness, cognitive function, mood. etc. On the other hand, adolescents biologically programmed to fall asleep 11p or later and wake at around 8am
3) Little kids waiting for the bus "in the dark" is frequently raised as a concern. While absolutely legitimate, these safety issues: can likely be addressed (lighted bus stops, supervising adults present) in younger children more easily than adolescents who may be driving to school (see below). Morning civil twilight begins (civil dawn) when the geometric center of the sun is 6° below the horizon[and ends at sunrise or when the geometric center of the sun is 0°50′ below the horizon. The Sun is just below the horizon, so there is generally enough natural light to carry out most outdoor activities. Civil twilight is about 30 minutes before sunrise at MA latitude

4) In contrast to elementary school children, the research is absolutely solid on the detrimental effects of insufficient and mis-timed sleep and early start times on adolescents and the stakes are extremely high:
Documented effects include 
Physical health (obesity, risk of cardiovascular disease (hypertension) and metabolic dysfunction (type 2 diabetes);
Mental health (depression, suicidal ideation);
Academic failure;
Emotional dysregulation;
Executive function deficits;
Impulse controlissues (alcohol consumption, substance use);
Safety: DROWSY DRIVING, sports-related injuries, occupational injuries.

5) The recommended sleep duration for 6-12 year olds is 9-12 hours. Depending of course upon commute times, even for children at the upper end of the range (who are generally the younger ones) a "sleep window" of 7p to 7a is reasonable and achievable (and the vast majority of elementary students do NOT need that much sleep)."

Dr. Owens' slides on Elementary Start Times

An additional resource: Masconomet School Committee member and former Start School Later volunteer compiled this Start Time and Sleep Research Summary which annotates much of the available research. The portion on elementary students begins on page 28.  

Case study from Southern Maine

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