Dallas, TX – This Monday, Carrollton-Farmers Branch elementary and high school students will start class at different times than they did last year. KERA's Bill Zeeble reports officials hope changed start-times will lead to better student performance.
Career educator Dr. Cloyd Hastings says he was an early catalyst for this change in the school system. The former Elementary School Principal and now District Administrator, says he has long known of research showing the benefits of letting high schoolers sleep in.
Cloyd Hastings, Carrollton-Farmers Branch's Executive Director of Assessment & Accountability: The average high school student needs nine and a quarter hours sleep while an eight or nine year-old or ten year-old may only need eight hours of sleep. Students as adolescents, biologically, tend to sleep best when they go to bed around 11 o'clock and get up at 8 or 9 o'clock.
Reliable sleep and education research goes back to at least the 1990s. It was so convincing that Richardson ISD high schools and Duke University, among others, adopted later class start times.
Hastings: There have been a number of studies, mostly in England, that have done some good studies looking at how, when they've changed start times, their performance levels have gone up and gone up rather dramatically.
Carrollton Farmers Branch cites research showing a 20 to 25 percent boost in standardized test scores.
Hastings: For some of us who went through college in a different era, most of us, once we could control our schedules, didn't sign up for 8 o'clock classes. That was something freshmen and sophomores had to deal with. Upper classmen knew better.
So the high schools in Carrollton-Farmers Branch will now start at 8:20, not 7:30, like last year. The move makes sense to R.L.Turner High School Principal Georgeanne Warnock.
Georgeanne Warnock: I would say about 9 o'clock we see "up and awake." 7:30 in the morning, we're tired because teenagers aren't programmed to be up at 7:30 in the morning.
On the other hand, research and human experience show younger children get up earlier, and are alert. So Carrollton Farmers Branch elementary schools this year will open 30 minutes earlier, at 7:40. That's fine with Sarah Smith, in line registering her little boy for school.
Sarah Smith, parent: No big deal. He's going into kindergarten, he's five. He's an early riser. It won't phase him a bit.
Other elementary parents echoed Smith's comments. So they're ready for schools to open at 7:40. High Schools will start at 8:20, and Middle Schools at 9:00. The staggered starts also accommodate bus schedules and allow for after-chool activities in high school. Officials add the start-time changes cost the district nothing.