Consider a revolutionary proposal to raise test scores

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor

How about we let our teenagers take state-mandated tests and the college boards when they are awake? Currently, tests start at 7:30 a.m., when most are not fully awake. Some are even comatose.

I proposed this during the 2011 election campaign, but this did not gain traction. The objection was that changing start times would require adjusting bus schedules. Which is more important, administrative convenience or student performance? If you ask parents, you will get a clear and resounding answer — student performance.

There’s no need to do market research, the answer is obvious.

Since then, according to the National Sleep Foundation, a significant number (80) of school districts across have experimented with later school times, not just for tests, but for the full school year. According to research by Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis changed its start time from 7:20 to 8:40 a.m., giving its 12,000 high schoolers an extra hour and 20 minutes of rest each morning. Wahlstrom says the students have benefited from the change.

“Students reported less depression when there was a later starting time,” she says. “And teachers reported that students were more alert and ready for learning. Parents reported that their children were easier to live with because their emotions were more regulated.”

In a new policy statement published online Aug. 25, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.

All of this is obvious to parents of teens. Let’s hope that it becomes obvious to those who control school schedules.

It could be the cheapest method of improving test scores and our kids’ chances at college admission. Maybe it’s not too much to hope that we will change the start time for GHS for the full year.


Peter von Braun

The author is a member of the Greenwich Board of Education.

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