District committee continues study of later high school start time

A district committee is continuing to explore the prospect of a later high school start time based on the benefits that have been associated with more sleep for adolescents. The School Start Times Committee is comprised of parents, students and faculty members, and is co-chaired by parent Deanna Bouton and Niskayuna High School Assistant Principal Anthony Malizia.

Many schools across the country have examined their high school start times in recent years given the health, social and academic benefits associated with sleep for adolescents. The Niskayuna committee began its work last year with a research review. Links to some studies are below.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Currently, buses begin dropping students off at Niskayuna High School shortly after 7 a.m. and the day starts at 7:40 a.m.

Some key elements of the research the committee reviewed include:

  • Natural sleep patterns, or circadian rhythms, shift during adolescence, causing students to feel less tired earlier in the evening than other age groups.
  • Shifts in start times do appear to result in students, on average, getting more sleep (versus simply staying up later).
  • In a 2018 survey of Niskayuna High School students for an AP English project, 72 percent of students who responded reported getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night.
  • Some studies have identified an increase in academic achievement, including for struggling students, in schools that have made their high school start time later.

Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., said that the science and research make it clear that there are benefits to a later high school start time. The questions that need to be answered are, what would it take to make the shift in Niskayuna in terms of school schedules and operations, how would that impact other aspects of the student experience, and would the benefits outweigh any changes or tradeoffs that are necessary.

The committee is working to answer these questions this year. It is looking into how the bus schedules and start/end times for all levels might need to change to make a later high school start time work. It is also studying how interscholastic athletics and middle school music in the morning might be impacted.

The committee’s goal is to provide a recommendation to the Board of Education in June.

Prior to that, it will be engaging the teachers, families and students in this conversation and sharing more information. If you would like more information or would like to get involved in the process, contact Start Times Committee co-chairs Anthony Malizia (amalizia@niskyschools.org) or Deanna Bouton (dmbouton@gmail.com).

Links to Research and Articles on Start Times

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Start Times for Adolescents

Hanover Research, Research Brief: School Start Times and Adolescent Students

Science Advances, “Sleepmore in Seattle: Later school start times are associated with more sleep and better performance in high school students”

New York Times, “The Science of Adolescent Sleep”

The district and School Start Times Committee acknowledge that there are many different research studies and articles on this topic. These are presented as among those that were helpful to the committee in analyzing school start times and the issue of adolescent sleep.