How Do We Triage Later Start Times?

How Do We Triage Later Start Times?

School Districts nationwide which have incorporated later start times at the secondary school level -- up to a 50-minute delay -- are consistently reporting a catalogue of benefits.

These results include more rested students who tend to eat a nutritious breakfast, drive to school more safely, and concentrate more easily, and in some instances more enjoyably, on material presented in class.

Academic research, studies, surveys, and anecdotal information corroborate the findings which reinforce the critical nature of the health, safety, and well-being of young people.

Yet, the complexity of the logistics which anticipates a change to later start times can be daunting for some districts. In the case of Main Line districts, the number of independent schools, in addition to the district’s schools, which rely on district-provided transportation and the number of sports teams participating in away competitions are just two of the challenges.

Since a later start time means a later end-time, which might be problematic, an obvious question to pursue is how to streamline the high school curriculum and the bell schedule in order to trim minutes from the school day.

Thus, a look at a progressive approach to assessing course credit is relevant.

For example, a suggestion which has had legs for more than a decade is to award varsity, junior varsity, and 9th grade athletes on school teams credit for physical education classes by virtue of their active participation in their respective teams’ fitness regimens.

The implementation of this notion of parity credit would reduce the number of class periods on two-to-three school days per week for athletes.

Added as beneficiaries to this option would be students who enroll beyond the regular school day in classes devoted to dance, marching band, drill team, yoga, karate, tai chi, fencing, club sports, and other fitness pursuits, only if verifiable by an authorized provider.

Another trend which is gaining momentum is to integrate mathematics instruction with the sciences and engineering.

As an illustration, The Framework for K-12 Science Education identifies eight practices of science and engineering as "essential for all students to learn":

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

2. Developing and using models

3. Planning and carrying out investigations

4. Analyzing and interpreting data

5. Using mathematics and computational thinking

6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

7. Engaging in argument from evidence

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

From the standpoint of earning credits toward graduation, the integration of math, science, and engineering creates what one could call a "super credit" system which means that students engaged in an integrated course can earn double the credits in one class period meeting daily, again resulting in reducing the length of the current school day.

The urgency of addressing adolescent sleep deficiency is driving a range of proposals and solutions. The progressive concepts of parity credit and super-credit can contribute to triaging later start times.

In conclusion, any streamlining of the current school day to accommodate a later start time needs to be done thoughtfully, meticulously, and inclusively to benefit all secondary school students and, eventually, their younger siblings.


*Author’s Note: The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences managed the first of two steps in the creation of the

Next Generation Science Standards by developing the A Framework for K-12 Science Education, which was released July 2011.

The Framework provides a sound, evidence-based foundation for standards by drawing on current scientific research—including research on the ways students learn science effectively—and identifies the science all K–12 students should know.

To undertake this effort, the NRC convened a committee of 18 individuals who are nationally and internationally known in their respective fields. The committee included practicing scientists, including two Nobel laureates, cognitive scientists, science education researchers, and science education standards and policy experts. In addition, the NRC used four design teams to develop the

Framework. These four design teams, in physical science, life science, earth/space science, and engineering, developed the Framework sections for their respective disciplinary area.

After releasing a public draft in July of 2010, the NRC reviewed comments and considered all feedback prior to releasing the final

Framework. The Framework is now being used as the foundation for the Next Generation Science Standards in a collaborative, state-led process that is managed by Achieve.

Mary Brown, Adjunct Professor of Classics at Saint Joseph’s University, holds a Pennsylvania Department of Education Professional Certification in Administration and is an active member of the Coalition For Youth of Lower Merion and Narberth, and Founder-President of Teen Learning Community based in Bryn Mawr.



Upcoming Events