Start high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m. in Pearland ISD

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Start high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m. in Pearland ISD

This petition had 920 supporters
zhiyong jiang started this petition to pearland ISD board members

Petition I: Starting School Later

High school students often seem to stay up too late at night and then have difficulty getting out of bed the next morning. Although there might be social and environmental factors that influence adolescents’ sleep behavior, recent research on the sleep-wake cycle of teens has identified changes in specific biological processes that occur with the onset of puberty that cause adolescents not only to need more sleep but also to feel sleepy at a later time. Because the sleep-wake cycle changes as children grow into adolescents, early high school start time has been identified as an important external factor that could restrict sleep and negatively affect academic learning.

In Pearland ISD, the high schools start at 7:15 a.m. Many students have to get up at 6:00 ~6:30 a.m. to catch up the bus. Pearland high schools are very competitive compared with majority of ISDs around the nation. With the heavy load of homework and tests, most students normally sleep between 11:30 p.m. ~ 2:00 a.m. and the sleep time is around 4 to 6.5 hours. For high school swimming team students who need to start swimming practice at 5:30 a.m. at Pearland Natatorium, their sleeping time is even much less because they have to get up around 4:30 a.m. The deprivation of sleeping time puts much strain on students and half of the students in many first and second period are sleeping during class. Adolescents require about 9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and it is the most critical period for physical and mental development. The negative impact from significant lacking of sleep is irreversible and may have long term impact for the rest of the life.

The Nobel Prize-Winning Research awarded in October 2017 helped in understanding the molecular and genetic clocks that control our day-night schedule, with significant implications on school-day scheduling. It explains why trying to force high school students to wake too early damages their health.

Many studies have been conducted and proved that Later High School Start Times have huge benefits for students in both health and academic performance. Here is the major findings from a Multi-Site study  by University of Minnesota: The results from this three-year research study, conducted with over 9,000 students in eight public high schools in three states, reveal that high schools that start at 8:30 AM or later allow for more than 60% of students to obtain at least eight hours of sleep per school night. Teens getting less than eight hours of sleep reported significantly higher depression symptoms, greater use of caffeine, and are at greater risk for making poor choices for substance use. Academic performance outcomes, including grades earned in core subject areas of math, English, science and social studies, plus performance on state and national achievement tests, attendance rates and reduced tardiness show significantly positive improvement with the later start times of 8:35 AM or later. Finally, the number of car crashes for teen drivers from 16 to 18 years of age was significantly reduced by 70% when a school shifted start times from 7:35 AM to 8:55 AM.

Recent sleep researches find that many adolescents are sleep-deprived because of both early school start times and changing sleep patterns during the teen years. A study at the US Air Force Academy identifies the causal effect of school start time on academic achievement by using two policy changes in the daily schedule along with the randomized placement of freshman students to courses and instructors. Results show that starting the school day 50 minutes later has a significant positive effect on student achievement, which is roughly equivalent to raising teacher quality by one standard deviation.

The National Education Association, National Parent Teacher Association, Parents for Public Schools, the Sleep Research Society, The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Association of School Nurses, Society of Behavioral Medicine , and the Society of Pediatric Nurses are among the many health groups in the U.S. who have recommended high schools starting time not earlier than 8:30 a.m. These recommendations are based on well-documented biologic changes during puberty that shift sleep cycles later. Even teenagers with reasonable bedtimes cannot get sufficient sleep if they wake for school at dawn. Proponents of the status quo often blame teen sleep loss on bad parenting, yet the real problem is trying to fight Mother Nature. If our circadian rhythms follow a genetic clock, then there’s nothing we can do that will make 5 or 6 a.m. a healthy wake time for teens. Disrupting the natural sleep cycle impairs mental and physical health, safety, and learning.

State lawmakers increasingly recognize the need for safe, healthy, and developmentally-appropriate school hours, and they're working toward that goal in a variety of ways. Bills to incentivize, or mandate healthy school start times have been introduced in at least 11 states. and many more states are working toward this direction. At local level, after a round of studies in 2017, HISD announced in January 2018, that the ISD changes the high school starting time to 8:30 a.m. Goose Creek ISD voted to push the high school starting time from 7:30 a.m. to no earlier than 8:30 a.m at the end of January 2018. Fort Bend ISD is also actively working on this and may also make the change soon.

In summary, we propose no school starts before 7:30 a.m. and high school not earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Parents in Pearland ISD

Feb, 2018

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