Another recent study1 confirms what many previous studies have already indicated, that delaying high school start times increases the amount of sleep that adolescents get, improves their emotional states, improves their alertness and performance at school, and even reduces the teen car crash rate2. It would seem with these kinds of results that schools would quickly move to change the start of the school day until later in the morning. Even small delays in start times can lead to statistically significant improvements. Such scheduling changes aren’t taking place, though, at least to any noticeable degree, and students continue to battle fatigue, including drinking lots of coffee, deal with depression in growing numbers, and struggle to do well in academic content.
I recently gave my Secondary Methods students a choice of reading one of Glasser’s books that focused on educational practice. Several of them chose his book, The Quality School (1990),which outlines the elements that contribute to a school being a student-friendly place in which they can become the best versions of themselves. I don’t recall Glasser specifically talking about school start times in The Quality School, however I am confident that, given the data, he would support later school day start times if were still around. (He liked to sleep in, too.)
When I first read The Quality School as a young principal in the early 90s, I can remember thinking that I wanted to be a part of such a school. Later, during my doctoral research I analyzed the book more carefully and developed a list of elements that Glasser felt Quality Schools would prioritize. I include that list below.
According to The Quality School
Relationships are highly valued – especially between students.
Staff and students like coming to school.
No student will be able to say, “No one cares about me.”
Cooperative learning is a common instructional format.
Focus is on quality; low quality work is not accepted.
There is no busywork.
There are no bad grades; B’s are required to receive credit.
To receive an A, students would have to produce something beyond competence.
Grades can be improved.
No nonsense is taught or tested; no objective tests, all tests are open book.
There is no compulsory homework.
There is no elitism.
Rules are kept to a minimum.
There is no punishment.
Parents are not asked to fix problems at school.
When students get into trouble and need to be suspended, there is no set suspension time. The suspension lasts as long as needed for the student to address the mistake.
Students may be asked to leave class.
The keys are 1) eliminating coercion, and 2) incorporating self-evaluation.
A loving, flexible environment is more valued than a rigid, threatening one.
Focus is on changing the system, rather than on changing students.
School start times aren’t mentioned on the list, but I would like to think that a school wanting to become a quality school would be open to such a change. Of the elements that are listed above, which of them appeal to you as more important and more needed? Which of them are you more skeptical about? As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts with the rest of us.
1. An article in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, by Boergers, et al., 2013, described how later school start times improve sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents.
2. A study described in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, by Danner and Phillips, 2008, indicated the following: Average hours of nightly sleep increased and catch-up sleep on weekends decreased. Average crash rates for teen drivers in the study county in the 2 years after the change in school start time dropped 16.5%, compared with the 2 years prior to the change, whereas teen crash rates for the rest of the state increased 7.8% over the same time period.
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