Ask Roxann: Can Our Teenagers Get More Sleep?

LO: Given all of the recent research regarding adolescent sleep cycles pointing to the fact that teenagers biologically need more sleep and shouldn't start school any earlier than 9am, and that this change would likely produce an increase in test scores as it has been shown that teenagers perform better with a later starting time and more sleep, is the District considering changes to the start time of the school day?

Why or why not?

Is this decision made by the Administration, Board of Ed, or does it have to do with teachers' contracts?


Will A Later Start Time For Adolescents Increase Student Achievement Scores?

The jury is presently out on this question. There are those who believe that adolescent body clocks don't allow students to be ready to sleep until 11pm, and as such, they should be permitted to begin school later. There are others who still believe that the early bird gets the worm and that early to bed and early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise. This group talks about students properly balancing their schedules to allow for sufficient rest.

In Lakewood, we have not had an outpouring of support for a later start, possibly because of the after school activities and jobs that such a move would disrupt. In order to make such a move work, other school districts would have to agree to begin after school activities at a later time. Entire athletic conferences would have to agree to come alongside to make it all work, and to date, no district in the area has led the charge to "play late ball."  People have discussed how later contests would lead to later returns home, later dinners, and incomplete homework.

As a school district, we see ourselves as open to reform and positive changes that might positively affect student achievement. Each month, we have teams of teachers and administrators meeting in what is called Communications Forum, where we discuss important issues for the good of students and the District. The Board of Education is kept apprised every step of the way and involved in any final decisions that might affect scheduling, program or curriculum. Together, and collectively we make decisions for the welfare of students, parents, staff and community. An example of such collective decision-making would be the agreement to offer more instruction time to our middle school students. The discussion on this change took place over a two year period, with the point being that we do our research on such issues and we don't take them lightly.

In Lakewood, we are constantly reviewing the research and attempting to stay up to date on current trends in education. Late start for teenagers appears to be one of those trends that is being examined, and although we are open to it, we know the varying opinions that exist surrounding this theme. Instead, we prefer to look at practices that are possibly more substantive and far-reaching. Is late start a cure-all or panacea to help tired teens? Or, is high school the beginning for students to make choices and prioritize what is important to them to balance their active lifestyles? Effective time management begins in high school and carries on through life.

Meanwhile, Lakewood City Schools belong to the students and parents of this community. As always, we are open to listening and considering possible changes in the future for the good of our student body. 

Volume 11, Issue 11, Posted 3:04 PM, 05.26.2015