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Starting School Later can close achievement gaps

Start school later. It is time to make the change.

Starting Schools Later can be cost effective and can help to close the inequity gap between the have's and have not's as well as between white and black/Latino students. 

The State of Maryland Public Education, 2013 (http://marylandcan.org/sites/marylandcan.org/files/state_of_md_public_ed_2013_MarylandCAN/index.html) a report released recently shows our low income students lagging more than 30 percentage points behind our more affluent students in both reading and math.  This exceeds the national average by 7 percentage points.  It also shows that "Black and Latino eighth-graders are 20 percentage points behind their white classmates in math".  This report shows a consistent achievement gap between white and blacks/Latinos.  It goes on to show how Maryland has shown an increase of 60% since 2002 in what they call "drop out factories".  These "drop out factories" are schools where 40% or more of 9th graders drop out of school by the 12th grade.

Another study in “Education Next” entitled Do Schools Begin Too Early, Summer 2012, Vol. 12, No. #3 (http://educationnext.org/do-schools-begin-too-early/) demonstrates how starting school later will help  to close this achievement gap in a cost effective manner.  "In this study, I use data from Wake County, North Carolina, to examine how start times affect the performance of middle school students on standardized tests. I find that delaying school start times by one hour, from roughly 7:30 to 8:30, increases standardized test scores by at least 2 percentile points in math and 1 percentile point in reading. The effect is largest for students with below-average test scores, suggesting that later start times would narrow gaps in student achievement."  The author goes on to describe in his final paragraph how starting school one hour later is dramatically less expensive than lowering class size which is often touted as the Holy Grail of educational efficacy. 

It just makes sense.  More affluent students, already having advantages, may be able to over compensate for some of the effects of chronic sleep deprivation though it important to note that even our privileged students show an increase in school performance on many measures.  Low income students do not have the needed resources to overcome the trials our current system places on them.  Simply starting schools later helps to equalize the playing field.  Similarly, black and Latino students who do not prosper as well as white students in our system are likely to show a greater increase in learning by eliminating a huge obstacle to learning: sleep deprivation.  I urge you to move forward for our kids and our future.  Make all schools start after 8:00.  Preferably with high schools starting after 8:30.  It will make a difference!

Sign our Howard County Petition at: http://tinyurl.com/sslhoco

Yours in Service,
Mark Donovan

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Mark Donovan February 19, 2013 at 11:09 PM
So far, our Howard County Start School Later petition has gotten 820 signers in just a week. Join us at: http://tinyurl.com/sslhoco
NoPower February 20, 2013 at 11:31 AM
Yes, of course, let's give the generation of "we have it all and we do no wrong" more ammunition to become softer. I am going to check when children in other countries (including some who are less industrialized than the US and kids seem to do better) go to school and how long a school day is. Aren't we like 23rd or 25th (if) in math and science? I wonder how many of those parents complain that their little darlings are not getting enough sleep while they continue to beat the heck out of the US.
Mark Donovan February 20, 2013 at 01:22 PM
Hi NoPower, Please post what you find about school start times in other countries. I think you have a great point that the US is lagging behind 22 or more other countries in the world in math, science, and language skills. Just starting school later shows an increase in grades and would raise our standings in the world. This improvement, as I noted above, is even more drastic for current low scoring populations that hurt our overall ranking. One thing I can tell you about the countries that do better than the US is that they spend longer days in school. Many other countries, all in the top 5, also have greater support, and expect higher education levels, from their teachers. These two features go hand in hand - they educate their teachers better then they support them day to day in the classroom. There is more of an interactive model of teaching their kids. Interestingly, teachers in the top 5 nations are not paid as much as US teachers but they do seem to be in higher regard. Society gives them more respect than we do here in the US. Teaching is a very difficult job - we all know our teachers here in Howard County make all the difference. I hope when you do your research, I hope you can identify those traits that help these other countries excel even though they spend much less money on education. By the way, my proposal could raise our standing for free - just have elementary start earlier than high school. Yours in Service, Mark
Mark Donovan February 20, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Just a clarification to my note below, I believe we should be paying our teachers more to match their level of importance in society. Where would we be without them? I also believe we should be paying back their student loans after so many years teaching - they are providing a community service that really matters! But this is another debate.

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