LSST

Later School Start Time

https://www.instagram.com/rhs_tired_teens/

Did You Know…

Healthy Messages

by Dr. Anne Robinson

Did you know that since the last day of school in June, this is what you see as you pass the front entrance of Willard School? My daily walk includes that familiar route I took decades ago from my childhood home to Willard.  On a recent walk, the principal was getting out of her car.  I turned back to say, “I love your sign!”  She smiled, thanked me for noticing, and replied, “It’s a message to our students.”  And what a healthy message it is.  
We don’t always realize how important it is for our children to hear the message from the adults in their lives that it is not only OK to take a break, it is healthy to take a break from academic work, athletics, activities, and technology.
One of the first successful initiatives by Smart Balance was instituting homework-free breaks at RHS twelve years ago.  The message we are sending to students and families is that we value the students’ personal time.  Smart Balance also initiated “blackout” weeks in the summer when there are no sports practices or required participation in activities sending the message that we value family time.
In fact, all of the Smart Balance initiatives revolve around respect: respecting the students’ time; respecting their needs as growing and developing children and adolescents; respecting their voices when they say, for example, that they feel better and function better when they have had the extra hour of sleep on Enrichment Days, another Smart Balance initiative.  It’s also about respecting the research that clearly demonstrates positive outcomes with a later school start time (LSST) for adolescent students. LSST is the first Smart Balance initiative to involve the input of the Ridgewood superintendent and BOE.  It is also the only one that has taken years to put into effect. 
As a district, we are sending mixed messages to our students and families when we talk about excellence and optimizing the potential of every student while we continue to undermine their efforts and place their health, safety, and achievement at risk with early school start times.
Thank heavens for the school administrators who get it.  Bravo, Willard School.  Keep those healthy messages coming!

The BOE meets Monday, August 29th at 5:00.  Thank you for your persistence and ongoing advocacy on behalf of the students.  Make sure your voice is heard.

Did You Know…  Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

By Dr. Anne Robinson

Did you know that according to a RAND study,  an 8:30 a.m. school start time for teens would result in an increase in lifetime earnings and big gains for the U.S. economy? 

Key Findings

  • The study suggested that delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m. is a cost-effective, population-level strategy that could significantly impact public health and the U.S. economy.
  • The study suggested that the benefits of later start times far outweigh the immediate costs. Even after just two years, the study projects an economic gain of $8.6 billion to the U.S. economy, which would already outweigh the costs per student from delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m.
  • After a decade, the study showed that delaying schools start times would contribute $83 billion to the U.S. economy, with this increasing to $140 billion after 15 years. During the 15 years examined by the study, the average annual gain to the U.S. economy would be about $9.3 billion each year.
  • Throughout the study’s cost-benefit projections, a conservative approach was undertaken which did not include other effects from insufficient sleep, such as higher suicide rates, increased obesity, and mental health issues — all of which are difficult to quantify precisely. Therefore, it is likely that the reported economic benefits from delaying school start times could be even higher across many U.S. states.

Full study:  Later School Start Times in the U.S.: An Economic Analysis

Some districts get discouraged by costs (mostly associated with transportation changes), but this study warns against being “penny wise and pound foolish.” The gains from higher academic performance and a reduction in teen car crashes, not to mention all of the other health benefits of later school start times (LSST), far outweigh the costs. In addition, many districts reevaluate their bus routes, consolidating them, finding the wasted space, and making them more efficient, thereby reducing costs.  And for districts concerned about losing a few instructional minutes, economists from the Brookings Institution found that the improved academic performance of students is equivalent to two extra months in school.

Being penny wise and pound foolish also refers to missing the forest for the trees, getting lost in the weeds of the “what” rather than focusing on the “why.” Districts that have successfully changed to LSST, including many of the schools that outperform Ridgewood, have known that their “why” is and must always be doing what is best for the students. On the other hand, districts like Ridgewood that continue to kick the can down the road are doing so at the expense of the students. The cost is real, and it’s personal. As the students have communicated so eloquently, their health, safety, and achievement are at stake.

Wendy Troxel, best known for her TED talk on LSST, was one of the authors of the RAND study.

Teens don’t get enough sleep, and it’s not because of Snapchat, social lives or hormones — it’s because of public policy, says Wendy Troxel. Drawing from her experience as a sleep researcher, clinician and mother of a teenager, Troxel discusses how early school start times deprive adolescents of sleep during the time of their lives when they need it most.

Later School Start Time

Mental Health Awareness Month

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month?
The rates of mental health disorders in our youth population have been escalating for years to the point of being declared a national emergency last fall.  The new legislation in NJ that would require all high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 was first proposed as a means of addressing the staggering numbers of adolescents with mental health issues.  An article in the New York Times this week highlighted the link between sleep and mental health.  Matt Richtel, author of the NYT series on adolescent mental health put it well:

“If you’re not getting some outdoor relief time and enough sleep — and you can almost stop at not enough sleep — any human being is challenged,” Matt said. “When you get the pubescent brain involved in that equation, you are talking about somebody being really, really challenged to feel contented and peaceful and happy with the world around them.”

In fact, the first question a physician or therapist should ask an adolescent with symptoms of ADHD, migraine headaches, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse is, “How much sleep are you getting?”
While digital technology and excessive homework can interfere with sleep, the one factor that has been proven to be associated with sleep deprivation in adolescents is an early school start time.  Because of the shift in circadian rhythm at puberty, adolescents find it difficult to fall asleep before 11:00.  Early school start times make it impossible for adolescent students to get the 9 hours of sleep they require setting them up for a whole host of physical and mental health issues.  In schools that have shifted to a later school start time, students report getting more sleep and feeling happier.

We need to move with a greater sense of urgency to establish later school start times if we expect to improve the mental health outcomes for our youth population.

Dr. Anne Robinson

May 12, 2022


A Visit from the Doctor

Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics put out a strong policy statement in 2014 saying that adolescent students should not start school before 8:30?  Dr. Judith Owens, a lead researcher behind the AAP policy statement, did a virtual event in Ridgewood last week.  In her presentation, she reiterated what our community has been hearing for over a decade: the science, the research, and the evidence all point in the same direction.  A later school start time for adolescent students leads to positive outcomes in physical health, mental wellness, safety, athletic performance, and academic achievement.  She spoke of teen car crashes, depression, suicide, alcohol, and drug use and made it clear that early school start times place students at greater risk for all of the above.  She said that grades, test scores, attendance, and graduation rates improve when start times are shifted later.  She also warned of the health consequences of sleep deficiency caused by early school start times, including infection, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and immune dysfunction.  She urged schools to take action.  Every day we delay is at the expense of student health, safety, and achievement.

“To do nothing is really to do harm.”  Judith Owens, M.D.

Dr. Anne Robinson

May 7, 2022


Did you know that this September, Chatham High School will join the ranks of high-performing NJ schools that have moved to a later school start time?  In his presentation to the BOE, Superintendent, Michael La Susa detailed the facts about the benefits of LSST with a conviction that left no doubt about his commitment to this change. Chatham BOE presentation  (8:00-19:45) In fact, he has become an ambassador for LSST, opening his doors to any school contemplating the change. In short, he has shown exemplary leadership. In his own words:
“I believe the greatest achievement of my career would be to push back the start time of our high school day, to reflect the physiology and biology of teenage kids, and what’s in their best interest.”

He will continue the process of educating his school community on the importance of LSST parallel to rolling up his sleeves and doing the work to ensure that every detail is addressed before September.  And if everything isn’t perfect by then, he said, that’s OK too.  They will make adjustments as they go.

By shaving 2 minutes off of each class period, Chatham High School will start the day at 8:20 and end at 3:00. RHS Principal, Jeff Nyhuis, has been proposing a similar schedule for years.  His schedule has the high school day starting at 8:30 and ending at 3:05.  He has held numerous round-table discussions with stakeholders including our Athletic Director, coaches, teachers, administrators, parents, and students.  He knows he has plenty of support.  He has made it clear that he is committed to getting this done because it’s what’s best for students.  He too has shown exemplary leadership.
However, the Ridgewood community and the students at RHS are still waiting to hear from our superintendent that a later school start time at the high school will be in place for September.  As one caller said at this week’s BOE meeting, we’ve been talking about LSST since her child was in Kindergarten.  He is now a senior at RHS.  The Smart Balance team has been laying the groundwork for over a decade and handed that work to our district on a silver platter. Smart Balance Timeline 
We don’t need more time; we need leadership.

Dr. Anne Robinson

April 29, 2022

Did you know that years ago, RHS moved the school start time a few minutes earlier because the extra instructional time bumped up our ranking? Instructional time is no longer one of the criteria for ranking high schools, as there is no correlation between instructional minutes and student achievement or excellence in education. Some of the highest performing schools, not only in NJ but throughout the country and across the globe, have the least instructional time.

In research collected by Lori Weil from the Smart Balance team, a look at over 30 high-performing high schools in NJ had Ridgewood at the top for instructional minutes, only surpassed by Northern Highlands, but RHS was in the middle of the pack for student performance.  Most schools had 6-8 classes per day, with each period lasting less than 60 minutes. Districts like Princeton and Chatham have figured out that prioritizing student wellness optimizes student potential, and later school start times boost student health and achievement.  Having well-rested, balanced, motivated students is more important than how many minutes they are sitting at a desk in the classroom.  

Meanwhile, at RHS, the students have created an Instagram account documenting students sleeping in class and various other locations in the school. @rhs_sleeping_students

“Grown-ups love figures…” (The Little Prince).  If we bury our heads in the numbers, we might miss the obvious. It’s not instructional time if the students are asleep at their desks. 

Dr. Anne Robinson

April 22, 2022

Did you know a new law mandates that every BOE in NJ must include a student representative? The bill’s sponsors wrote:

“There is great power and value to having student voices represented on school boards. Not only does it create an opportunity for civic engagement and leadership, but it also generates greater accountability among the adults for the broader impacts of their decision-making. At the end of the day, student feedback is essential when considering policies and issues that will directly impact them, so it is only just and in true democratic-fashion they be afforded a seat at the table.”

If it were up to the students at RHS, a later school start time would have been in place over a decade ago when students did their own survey and 95% said they wanted a later start time, most indicating that 8:30 would be optimal.  They were spot-on.  Several years later, in 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics put out their policy statement saying that adolescent students should not start school before 8:30.  Since then, the students have written articles in the RHS High Times, presented at HSA meetings, and made public comments at BOE meetings demonstrating their knowledge of the science, research, and evidence supporting the change.  They have recently formed an organization RHS Tired Teens to advocate for a later school start time and already have over 1000 names on a petition “…because, let’s be real, we’re tired of being tired.”  

Dr. Anne Robinson

April 7, 2022

Sweet Sixteen

Are you wondering why your favorite team didn’t make it to the Sweet Sixteen? It might be because the players didn’t get enough sleep before the game. Sleep affects speed, accuracy, mental focus, intensity, muscle recovery, and risk of injury. According to Dr. W. Christopher Winter, President of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, “Sleep is the most important thing in the world for an athlete. It is as important as food, hydration, and athletic preparation/conditioning.” LeBron James is famous for getting 12 hours. He is in good company with other elite athletes like Justin Verlander, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, and Usain Bolt who have figured out why coaches call sleep the new frontier in performance enhancement and their “secret weapon.”  Games are won and lost by split seconds, inches, one mental mistake. What coach wouldn’t want their players at peak performance every time they compete? That’s why many players wear wristbands to monitor the quantity and quality of their sleep, teams hire sleep specialists and install napping rooms to maximize sleep.  The sleep specialist for the Washington Nationals got a World Series ring for her contribution to the win. The Celtics moved to a later practice start time and found that the team’s free throw percentage went up.  Sports schedules are often cited as an obstacle to later school start times but schools that have made the change haven’t found any basis for those concerns and they are reaping the benefits!

Dr. Anne Robinson

jenna
Jenna Benson (junior) and Katrina Eilender (junior) speaking on LSST at the April 4, 2022 Ridgewood Board Of Education meeting.

RHS Tired Teens

Did you know a new law mandates that every BOE in NJ must include a student representative? The bill’s sponsors wrote:

“There is great power and value to having student voices represented on school boards. Not only does it create an opportunity for civic engagement and leadership, but it also generates greater accountability among the adults for the broader impacts of their decision-making. At the end of the day, student feedback is essential when considering policies and issues that will directly impact them, so it is only just and in true democratic-fashion they be afforded a seat at the table.”

If it were up to the students at RHS, a later school start time would have been in place over a decade ago when students did their own survey and 95% said they wanted a later start time, most indicating that 8:30 would be optimal.  They were spot-on.  Several years later, in 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics put out their policy statement saying that adolescent students should not start school before 8:30.  Since then, the students have written articles in the RHS High Times, presented at HSA meetings, and made public comments at BOE meetings demonstrating their knowledge of the science, research, and evidence supporting the change.  They have recently formed an organization RHS Tired Teens to advocate for a later school start time and already have over 1000 names on a petition “…because, let’s be real, we’re tired of being tired.”  

Dr. Anne Robinson

Daylight Savings Time

Did you know that every year when we “spring forward” to Daylight Savings Time and lose an hour of sleep it takes a toll on our health?  The Monday after the time change, rates of heart attacks, hospitalizations, and accidents increase.  Drowsy driving causes 6,400 fatal car crashes every year and the rate is highest for drivers 16-24 years old.  In fact, car accidents are the leading cause of death in adolescents.  Driving with a sleep deficit is equivalent to driving after 3-4 beers.  Judgment and reaction time are impaired and the driver is 55% more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.  In communities where they have made the change to a later school start time, car crashes decreased by 16-70%.  Student safety is one of the most important reasons cited for making the change to a later start time.
Did You Know..California passed legislation that will go into effect this September mandating that middle schools start no earlier than 8:00 am and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 am.  In 2017, the NJ Department of Education released a report citing the science, research, and evidence showing positive outcomes for adolescent students when schools start at 8:30 or later  NJDOE Study.  At that time, they recommended later school start times but came short of a mandate.  In a press release last Friday, NJ legislators announced the introduction of a bill that would require all NJ high schools to start no earlier than 8:30.  Elementary and middle schools were not included in the proposal.

Dr. Anne Robinson



The sleep-ins/enrichment mornings started in 2012. The students start at 8:45AM and the teachers have a unique and unprecedented opportunity when they are all free at the same time to meet and discuss topics of their choice. If you were to walk into the building, you would see teachers clustered in various classrooms discussing everything from a great new book to Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to the benefits of later start times. It has been a win-win! It started with an occasional Wednesday but now there are two Fridays every month.

Enrichment Mornings
During the school year, RHS begins the school day for students with a one-hour delay. These monthly Enrichment Mornings, affectionately known as “sleep-ins” by the students, are a chance for students to catch up on their school assignments or sleep. The faculty and staff still report at the regular time for professional development sessions. The Learning Commons, Campus Center, and cafeteria are still available for students to complete schoolwork and meet to collaborate on school projects.

Homework-free Breaks
As a school policy, assignments are not given over, or due immediately after, major religious holidays, Thanksgiving, December, February, and April recesses. (Please note, that while assignments are discouraged during April recess exceptions are made based upon the class due to many of the State and AP tests that are administered around this time period.) Ideally, this time should be used by teachers and students alike to decompress and engage in other activities.

Period 9
RHS is dedicated to providing a supportive environment where students are given every opportunity to succeed. Period 9 (2:50 P.M. to 3:15 P.M.) is a part of the school day where all teachers, counselors, and grade advisors are available for help in a designated room throughout the building. Many students take advantage of this one-on-one time with their teachers to ask questions, clarify assignments, receive extra help or have discussions in a more informal setting.

Principal Advisory
A committee of students and faculty members meet with the Assistant Principal on a regular basis to discuss student issues and concerns. Recommendations are then made to the Principal regarding ways to improve student life at RHS.

Stress Management
RHS offers a Core Wellness Curriculum for 11th grade students which includes a Yoga & Stress Management course. Yoga is a mind-body practice that can aid in reducing stress and anxiety. It can also enhance one’s mood and overall sense of well-being. Additionally, practicing yoga may lead to improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength.

Summer Blocked-out Dates
Each year, starting dates for the fall sports schedule and blackout dates, during which RHS will not have activities scheduled, are posted. These dates are based upon the NJSIAA, the governing body for NJ high school athletics, and RHS policies and schedules and change year to year. Typically, RHS plans for two (2) “blackout” periods with no school events scheduled during final exams and the first week of August. Each individual coach will also send a summer schedule letter to the appropriate families and inform them of their start dates.

Each individual sport or activity may also have additional weeks with no commitments built into the summer schedule. Students will not be penalized for missing any pre-season practices or activities prior to the official start date. Family time is extremely important and this fact is recognized by RHS. The coaches are very cognizant of this and try to find the balance between personal time and preparing athletes so they are properly conditioned for their competitions.


Resources

Websites

American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey Chapter

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sleep Foundation

Start School Later, Inc.

Ridgewood School District ASTF Web Site

Articles/Research Studies

Association of Delaying School Start Time with Sleep Duration, Timing, and Quality Among Adolescents, JAMA Pediatrics

Myths and Misconceptions – Start School Later

Let Them Sleep? Later School Start Times Improve Graduation and Attendance Rates, neaToday

Let’s Change School Start Times Across America, Psychology Today

5 Pros and Cons of Later School Start Times, Master of Arts in Teaching Guide

School Start Times for Adolescents, Pediatrics

Why All the Fuss About Changing School Start Times? School Leader


History of the Alternative Schedules Exploration