New study shows — Seattle’s switch to later school start times for adolescents is making a positive difference

A newly published study by professors at the University of Washington shows that the Seattle School District’s recent change to a later school start time for its adolescent students has had positive impacts.

“Sleepmore in Seattle: Later school start times are associated with more sleep and better performance in high school students,” was published in Science Advances magazine Dec. 12, 2018, by authors Gideon P. Dunster, Luciano de la Iglesia, Miriam Ben-Hamo, Claire Nave, Jason G. Fleischer, Satchidananda Panda and Horacio O. de la Iglesia. According to their abstract:

Most teenagers are chronically sleep deprived. One strategy proposed to lengthen adolescent sleep is to delay secondary school start times. This would allow students to wake up later without shifting their bedtime, which is biologically determined by the circadian clock, resulting in a net increase in sleep. So far, there is no objective quantitative data showing that a single intervention such as delaying the school start time significantly increases daily sleep. The Seattle School District delayed the secondary school start time by nearly an hour. We carried out a pre-/post-research study and show that there was an increase in the daily median sleep duration of 34 min, associated with a 4.5% increase in the median grades of the students and an improvement in attendance.

The study also made national news. NPR, CBS and locally, the Seattle Times, covered the story:

Later School Start Times Really Do Work To Help Teens Get More Sleep : Shots – Health News : NPR

No, teenagers are not lazy for sleeping in — and a new Seattle school policy is helping them get the shut-eye they need | The Seattle Times

I’m proud to have been a member of the Seattle School Board that shepherded this through,  as an advocate from the start, and finally, as a member of the 6-1 majority that passed it. Bell times were an ongoing topic the entire time I was on the Board (2013-17). After many delays, this change was finally implemented in Sept. 2016.

Much credit goes to the community members — parents, teachers, medical professionals and others — who tirelessly advocated for this sensible change for a number of years. That includes parents and teachers like Dianne Casper, Cindy Jatul and others.

If more school districts focused on common-sense practices and policies like this, which address the fundamental needs of students, rather than constantly looking for and wasting resources on the latest silver-bullet solution or reform trend from outside interests that stand to make a profit from public education, students would be better served.

Seattle is a national leader on this front. Hopefully other districts will follow suit.

— Sue Peters

(Note: I meant to post this last month. Apologies for the delay. Happy New Year!)

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