Many Boston high-school students will get to sleep in a bit later next year

WBUR reports the Boston School Committee voted last night to change start and end times for Boston schools, with the goal of getting high-schools to school later, elementary students out of school earlier and to tie the whole thing into the school-bus schedules a team at MIT has been drawing up. Members of that team were supposed to work overnight to get the new schedules ready for public release today.



Free tagging: 


It would be great if

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It would be great if established science knew more of the corners/neighborhoods they have our children walking .5 miles through to get to their bus stops.


No answer is 100% right

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I wouldn't call this "common sense" as there are as many reasons this is a bad idea as there are ones for why it's good. In the end it will all work out, at some cost. Time will tell if this was the right thing to do.

It's all moot now, but...

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Did YOU miss the part about kids now traveling during peak rush hour? And that it may cause havoc with after-school activities, which now run even later. Perhaps you didn't see the part about parents, perhaps, having to stay home and be late for work while they get their kids to (later starting) school?

There is science that says this is good. There is also, commonsense that says it's a mixed bag.

Did you miss the notion of costs?

Did you miss the part where research has shown benefits?

The fact that something has benefits doesn't necessarily mean it's something that ought to be done. Smoking cigarettes, for example, helps you lose weight. That's a benefit.

Research has shown significant health and educational benefits to starting school later. There are also costs: children traveling through heavier traffic, children left unsupervised for longer because their parents need to leave for work before the kids leave for school, etc. Without quantifying all of that, it's pretty hard to argue for or against a later start time.

Some are 100% Wrong

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Like, the answers that start with speculation rather than investigating the outcomes for a number of key indicators that have been amassed since school systems started doing this in the 1990s and publishing about it.


So, is BPS actually going to monitor

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things once the new times are in effect, in order to see that the benefits of this plan that "science " has touted as the latest "marvel of the ages" actually happen and are sufficiently beneficial that they outweigh the negatives.

Or have BPS students and parents just been railroaded into accepting another "it's from the government, therefore it's good for you " program?

You missed something

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But attending public schools, the parents have already bought into accepting another "it's from the government, therefore it is good for you" program.

Nothing against public education, but if you are going to knock the government for having programs that are theoretically good for you, you might want to start with the underlying government program. You know, like the programs your little town offers to parent and students.

So now we'll

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Play musical chairs with kids during the peak of rush hour! Maybe we should look at cutting students commute time.



Where did you go to school? I’m trying to imagine where a kid would park his car near BLS.


actually it helps

When English High briefly had a later schedule the groups of kids loitering at Forest Hillls decreased dramatically.


Kids will still be going to

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Kids will still be going to school during just about the same window of time as this year. The only difference is that elementary school kids will start earlier and high school kids will start later -- as often as possible. So it's not like they're just moving all kids later.

MBTA school trips

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I'm very curious as to how this affects MBTA supplemental bus trips, commonly known as school trips, which is there method by euch about 90 percent of my classmates and I get to and from school. from my conversations with drivers, it would be very hard to delay these trips, particularly in the morning when the busses are assigned to routes with crush loads to provide much needed rush hour capacity. If this plan goes through they will either need to bring back yellow busses for high schools, something we can all agree is highly unlikely, or the T will need to steal busses from other routes.

Its gonna be bad, things will need to change...

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Hope people are paying attention, I would expect a significant loss of this type of service...

Most special trips used to slip in just before the AM peak of the peak, limiting peak vehicle usage. I cannot imagine "stacking" more buses into a given hour if "spare" vehicles are not available.

Probably won't change the BLS routes

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The buses heading to BLS through Forest Hills are already arriving after the final bell pretty much every day, every trip. So with the BLS start time only moving by 15 minutes, I hope they don't move the bus schedules at all.

It's about time

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I am glad the school committee is seeing reason on this matter. I'd like to know when this madness of having kids go to school at such an ungodly (and unhealthy for them) hour started. When I was in the Boston Public Schools in the 60s and 70s the start time was always 8:20 AM. So even with this new, later start time of 8 AM it's still earlier than what it once was.


Kids win! Now they can Snapchat even later!

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Yes kids are tired in the morning, but it is because they go to bed too late. Instead of parents setting and enforcing sensible bedtimes so that their kids are rested, the rest of the world now has to change so that their kids can sleep later.


no thats not it.

One change in the body during puberty is closely related to how you sleep. There is a shift in the timing of your circadian rhythms. Before puberty, your body makes you sleepy around 8:00 or 9:00 pm. When puberty begins, this rhythm shifts a couple hours later. Now, your body tells you to go to sleep around 10:00 or 11:00 pm.

The natural shift in a teen's circadian rhythms is called "sleep phase delay." The need to sleep is delayed for about two hours. At first, teens may appear to be suffering from insomnia. They will have a hard time falling asleep at the usual time. While they begin going to sleep later, they still need an average of nine hours of sleep at night.

It has to do with the way hormones affect the release of melatonin



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Your body falls into a circadian rhythm and adapts to it. Melatonin/serotonin cycles are somewhat influenced by daylight, but that effect isn't even very strongt anymore since we're so well bathed in artificial light all day long.

It's possible that teens and young adults have a >24 hour internal clock, driving them to try to stay up later than whatever bedtime schedule they try to follow. Maybe teens have a prowling instinct making them want to to stay up later than their parents so they can socialize and find sex and reproduce.

Empirically, sure later highschool start times correlate to more sleep. But we don't know why, and it's horrible science to make statements about melatonin being synchronized to NIST.

I'm not aware of any studies into teen sleep patterns that break it down by timezone, or by part of timezone. That might clarify what's going on. How do teens in Boston (eastern edge of Eastern time) compare to Indianapolis (western edge of Eastern time) and St Louis (eastern edge of Central time)? That might give some insight into what's really going on.

One request

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Cite your research and professional qualifications when making such assertions.

It might make you look less foolish when pretending that "I just knoooowwww" is somehow more rigorous, studied, and true than "I'm a professional who has studied this".

Because the woo you learn in Whole Foods Magazine! isn't science.


I though it would be clear that I cut and pasted from the article I linked. but maybe I should block quote it.

Uninformed Comment

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"Yes kids are tired in the morning, but it is because they go to bed too late. Instead of parents setting and enforcing sensible bedtimes so that their kids are rested, the rest of the world now has to change so that their kids can sleep later."

This comment is uninformed. It has nothing to do with laziness, it is physiological. Besides, just because there is an "enforced sensible bedtime" it does not mean somebody falls asleep. Doh!

Alternatively, the real data suggest...

Across multiple cultures around the world and for as long as anyone has noticed, teens stay up late and sleep late and old people get up early and go to bed early. This conferred fairly obvious evolutionary advantages to early humans: in a family grouping, there was a natural shift system: pretty much always someone awake on watch-for-sabre-toothed-tigers duty.


Thanks for citing the literature

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Oh. Wait.

Please go read some of The Google about what actually happens when school systems do this (HINT: KIDS DO NOT GO TO BED LATER - THEY SLEEP LATER)

That's good, right?

If high school kids are, in general, grossly sleep deprived, isn't sleeping later exactly what we want?
[edit -- responded to wrong message; this wasn't directed at you]

I'm expecting all A's now...

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The new times have been posted. Woo-woo my daughter gets to sleep a whole 15 minutes later. It's transformative! (yawn)

P.S. ...and unless you are raking my leaves, please do get off my lawn.

Anecdotes aren't data

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but here's a wonderful anecdote.

One of my part-time employees was a wonderfully conscientious, responsible, and hard working high school senior. She was just 16 when we hired her and 18 when she went away to college. On top of being one of our most trustworthy and responsible employees, she carried a significant AP courseload and extracurriculars. She also woke up early every morning to attend a 6 am spin class, and was looking forward to turning 18 so she could work the 5 am shift at our work because she loved getting up early.

However, one day she was complaining to us how frustrated she was. She gets up early every morning, and goes to bed by 10 every night so she can be well-rested for the next day, but once she's in bed she simply can't fall asleep until 12, and doesn't know what she's doing wrong.

At which point I informed her about teen's circadian rhythms naturally slanting teens towards falling asleep at midnight or later, to which she responded "Aw darn it, that's not fair, I'm trying to be responsible here!"

This sounds good in theory

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This sounds good in theory but sounds complicated for families that have a kid in high school and elementary/middle school. If the rest of the family is "wide awake at 6 a.m." is the high schooler really sleeping soundly? (asking as a lifelong insomniac who can't sleep if anyone else is up)

MBTA mayhem

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The MBTA could help make the transition safer by allowing Boston school buses permission to drop the kids off in MBTA busways. That being said I can hardly wait to board a rush hour train that breaks down just as the sharks and jets are getting ready to rumble.

What does a team of MIT

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What does a team of MIT experts know about what time BPS seniors actually go to sleep every night? Some of them never even come home until 3:00 a.m.

That's not what the MIT team is doing

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They got involved because of the complexities of trying to solve the BPS version of the traveling-salesman problem - how to most efficiently route BPS buses - which led to the issue of how to fix a complex system of school hours (BPS, at least until last night, had lots of different beginning and end times for all its schools) AND connect that to the transportation issues they were previously working on.

What does a team of MIT

What does a team of MIT experts know about what time BPS seniors...

Although, as Adam points out, that's not the aspect of the problem they're working on, the answer to your question is, "Presumably, being well-trained researchers, they know that rule #1 is USE REAL DATA, and they have taken steps to gather that information."

The Greater Good

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Kudos to Boston Public Schools for being innovative, collaborative, and aligning best practices with overwhelming current research in neuroscience!!

And to all of the complainers, think before you speak. This world does not revolve around you. Change is hard, but sometimes changes need to be made to benefit the greater good!!!