Toronto high school’s late start-time pilot a success, will be ignored or fought elsewhere
Teenage schoolchildren wake up for class too early. It sounds crazy, but it’s true, and one Toronto high school decided to take the radical step of bending to reality, shifting the start of the school day to 10 a.m. rather than insisting its students come in at 8 or 9. The program at Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute was just a pilot project, but the results so far seem pretty impressive. According to the Toronto Star:
“The most important thing is that the kids are in a better place, and I mean psychologically, emotionally and physically, and for optimizing learning — that’s number one,” said principal Sam Miceli. “The fact that they are getting more sleep? It’s key.”
He believes the increased sleep has prompted 4 to 9 per cent more students to accumulate the necessary credits in grades 9 and 10, higher than the Toronto District School Board overall.
In grades 11 and 12, Eastern students showed the highest percentage improvement in English and math compared to the entire board, though they are still below the board average.
What’s funny, in a frustrating sort of way, about this ongoing story is just how timid schools have been. Research on the sleeping patterns of teenagers, which has shown they are wired to sleep longer and later than adults, goes back more than a decade now and isn’t even a little bit controversial, unless the American Psychological Association is someone’s definition of a voodooist. The later start time doesn’t turn dropouts into geniuses, but it does help kids who are struggling in the margins. It shouldn’t cost too much (it’s just moving hours around, not adding them) and it probably doesn’t annoy the teachers too much. Nevertheless, this is one of those things we expect to still be fighting for some time after the 2078 election brings Dalton McGuinty’s cyborg grandchild to Queen’s Park.