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Posted on Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

Ann Arbor high school start times won't be changing anytime soon

By Danielle Arndt

After forming a multi-faceted committee to study the topic of high school start times, Ann Arbor administrators did not find compelling evidence in favor of pushing back the start of the day for the district’s teens.

teens sleep.JPG

Research shows teens are somewhat naturally night owls. Ann Arbor Public Schools discussed the possibility of pushing back high school start times to cater to teens' brain functionality. file photo

In April, the administration presented its initial research to the board, sharing several national studies that have found teenagers are “naturally night owls,” due to how and when teens produce melatonin.

  • Read the previous story here.

A group of 14 people from AAPS — including administrators, Washtenaw Intermediate School District Transportation Director Tom Moore, several parents and Huron Athletic Director Dottie Davis — met repeatedly to discuss the feasibility of later start times at the high schools.

The committee also was charged with considering how implementing a later start time could impact transportation, athletic schedules and childcare arrangements.

High school start times in Ann Arbor currently are around 7:40 a.m., middle schools start at 8:10 a.m. and elementary schools start at 8:48 a.m.

The committee presented the four most plausible transportation scenarios that would be necessary to make later start times a reality for the board’s consideration Wednesday night.

The first scenario would have required more runs and thus additional salaries and benefits for drivers. The second scenario would call for a 25 percent increase in the number of buses required to transport eligible students. The third would keep the same busing system the district currently has but push back the start time of all grades by 15 minutes. And the fourth scenario would be to do nothing and maintain the current bell times as well as bus schedule.


Alesia Flye

Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Services Alesia Flye said she did not see any research that conclusively shows a later start time would significantly improve student achievement.

“As a committee, we were not convinced the research suggests that if we make these huge adjustments, we will see huge academic gains,” she said.

Trustee Andy Thomas asked if transportation were not the major constraint and the district decided to eliminate transportation for high school students anyway, “what would be the recommendation for the start time if we could just make it any time?”

Flye said it is the recommendation of the committee that the group conduct a survey of elementary, middle and high school students to get a better understanding for how a later start time might impact them.

“The committee felt like it wanted more measurable information from people in the community, as the committee is still an active committee,” Flye said.

The board gave the administration the OK to move forward with the survey, but largely did not want to spend too much time on this topic right now, especially if the benefits of a later start to the school day were not overwhelming.

“For me, it is is the research actually 100 percent in favor of this? Will this absolutely make what we’re doing (academically for students) so much stronger? And I’m not convinced,” said Trustee Irene Patalan.

Trustee Susan Baskett suggested making the survey and further study of the high school start times topic a student project.

“If we guide them and show them how to design it,” Baskett said. “I agree we can’t put this completely to rest until we have more input, but I’d be in favor of fewer resources on the staff. … Kids could give us a lot of info in a short period of time.”

Trustee Glenn Nelson echoed that start times should revert to low on the priority list.

“What we have here relative to what else we’re being forced to look at, this is not a big issue.”

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 11:44 a.m. "This study identi?es the causal e?ect of school start time on academic achievement by using two policy changes in the daily schedule at the US Air Force Academy along with the randomized placement of freshman students to courses and instructors. Results show that starting the school day 50 minutes later has a signi?cant positive e?ect on student achievement, which is roughly equivalent to raising teacher quality by one standard deviation." There, you happy?

Chris Blackstone

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 9:57 a.m.

Not a single commenter on this post has pointed to any research that actually conclusively shows that later start times equals increased student achievement. Until that happens, criticism of the "lack of change" has no leg to stand on. If the head of Instructional Services doesn't think this change is warranted by the data, who are any of us to second guess her?


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 8:58 a.m.

When I went to school elementary started at 9:00 AM and ended at 3:20. Middle school started at like 8:45 and ended around 2:50. High school was 8-3:20. But I guess we had more of everything back then. I always hated getting up at 6am to go to school in high school to catch the bus at 7:10. When I got my driver's license I was able to sleep in until 7am!! I really think they could have benefited from changing the times around. But we all went through it and survived. It's just a fact of life. Most jobs start now at 8am. Some at 9. Some even earlier. I guess better start getting used to it?


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 2:29 a.m.

Committees don't have facets. You can look it up.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 3:31 a.m.

I did. "Multifaceted describes someone or something with many features or perspectives to consider." The committee had people representing many different perspectives. The word seems appropriate to me.

West Side Mom

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 2:18 a.m.

Appears that making this kind of change is too inconvenient for administrators who can't see anything in it for them.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 2:07 a.m.

The board appears to be dragging their feet rather than leading on this issue. The research is clear. Older kids (HS age) need a later start time and it is not about earlier bed time. Their is an observed phase shift towards later wake up times in the circadian rhythm for older kids. If we continue to deny biology and psychology we will continue to cause problems for ourselves.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 11:53 p.m.

Start times are based on the need to share buses, and nothing more. It would be nice to base something on the needs of the kids for once.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

If conclusive proof that it would raise test scores is the standard -- not just increasing attendance, attention, and student happiness -- no surprise it's voted down. Bow down before the golden calf of test scores.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

I think that the research and studies on this proves that high school times need to start later. With Skyline starting at 7:30 instead of 7:45, a lot of kids in 1st-3rd hour classes are falling asleep because they have a lot of homework that keeps them up until the middle of the night and then they have to wake up at 6 to get ready for school. As a student at Skyline, I was not a fan of the earlier start time. Elementary school kids are usually up around 6 or sometime in the early morning, but they don't have school until 9. I really hope that the start times for the high schools and elementary schools get switched. Yes this may not be a priority right now, but I don't see how there is not any good evidence that later start times helps improve a students academic performance.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

All that's needed is some parenting. Make sure your kids go to bed earlier - without electronic devices - and they will be fine.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 11:40 a.m.

And Classof2014 *is* a student - meaning s/he's speaking from current experience. Our daughter has theater and band practices right after school, then hits the homework. Most nights, that keeps her busy until at least 9pm, with time for dinner, while doing homework, and a shower. If we're lucky she's in bed by 9:30. If she has a big assignment or needs a lot of help with math or something, she's often up till 11 working on homework. And no, our daughter doesn't touch electronic devices - except those needed to do her homework - in that time. We don't watch TV in our family. The TV only gets turned on Friday nights for a weekly movie.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

"due to how and when teens produce melatonin." Good parenting can do a lot, but it has no effect on when the sun rises and sets. You should do some reading on circadian rhythms and body clocks. Here's a WebMD article to get you started:

Unusual Suspect

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 1:30 a.m.

So, they're doing homework from the moment they get home from school until the moment they go to bed? Really?


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

its not that kids don't want to go to bed earlier, it is that they can't with all this homework that they do every day after school, is taking them into the wee hours of the night to finish and then the students have to get out of bed at 6 am to get ready for school. If kids don't go to bed with electronic devices, that won't make a difference.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 8:51 p.m.

AAPS should talk to folks in Dexter. They moved their start times back several years ago and I hear that it's working well. In addition to better achievement, more sleep for teen is associated with fewer car accidents, lower depression, and better social relationships. AAPS may be a little shortsighted here.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

I think that the evidence is very strong to support the later start times for the older students. Why not swap the elementary and high school start times? I have been told that the real reason for the earlier start time for HS is so the students will have more time for sports and other after school activities. I don't think that should be driving this policy.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

"For me, it is is the research actually 100 percent in favor of this? Will this absolutely make what we're doing (academically for students) so much stronger? And I'm not convinced," said Trustee Irene Patalan. If you're actually waiting for 100% absolute certainty on almost anything before making a decision, you will be making very few decisions.