The blogging space of the Burlington Public Schools Assistant Superintendent
Author: Patrick Larkin
I feel blessed to be an educator. I have had the good fortune of working as an English teacher, an Assistant Principal, a Principal and an Assistant Superintendent. I currently serve as the Assistant Superintendent of Burlington Public Schools (MA).
The study suggested that delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m. is a cost-effective, population-level strategy which could have a significant impact on public health and the U.S. economy.
The study suggested that the benefits of later start times far out-weigh the immediate costs. Even after just two years, the study projects an economic gain of $8.6 billion to the U.S. economy, which would already outweigh the costs per student from delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m.
After a decade, the study showed that delaying schools start times would contribute $83 billion to the U.S. economy, with this increasing to $140 billion after 15 years. During the 15 year period examined by the study, the average annual gain to the U.S. economy would about $9.3 billion each year.
Throughout the study’s cost-benefit projections, a conservative approach was undertaken which did not include other effects from insufficient sleep, such as higher suicide rates, increased obesity and mental health issues — all of which are difficult to quantify precisely. Therefore, it is likely that the reported economic benefits from delaying school start times could be even higher across many U.S. states.
“Following a survey issued at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, (Dobles Ferry School District Superintendent Lisa Brady told Business Insider ‘”it was clear from both the parents and the kids, overwhelmingly, that the mornings were just less stressful.”‘
A math teacher from New Hope, Pennsylvania also had positive things to say about his school’s switch to a later start time a year ago.”
“…students are less stressed and performing just as well if not better in their classes. A survey he issued schoolwide showed students and teachers are widely in favor of the policy.”
One of the best things about starting a new school year is the opportunity for a reset. Whether you are a teacher, a student, or a parent, a new school year allows you an opportunity to set aside old habits and routines that were counterproductive and to begin with a clean slate. These new routines could be school/work related, health related or connected to your personal life.
My new routine involves a new journal to help script things for me and hold myself a bit more accountable to both short and long-term goals. I am also hoping that the daily journaling will help me gain insight into the habits that lead to more productive days. One of the things that I like most about the new journal is the hourly time log which needs to be filled in ahead of time. I think that outlining the day ahead will be a deterrent for getting caught off-task and not finishing priority items. A major obstacle for me in the past has been falling for the misconception that I am good at multitasking.
So my New (school) Year Resolution is to start a task and stay on it until the conclusion and not give in to the temptation to jump to something else that I think will only occupy me momentarily. The problem for me is that these momentary distractions are seldom brief and many times I do not get back to the original task I was working on. We’ll see how it goes…
One word that resonated with me today was behaviors. In Beth’s opening session about supporting innovation and change, she talked about the importance of articulating what behaviors we would like to see in regards to the implementation of a particular initiative. The simple part is understanding that we cannot have change without a change in current behaviors. Of course, the harder work is coming to a consensus on what those new behaviors should be.
My other takeaway from Beth’s time was her discussion on incremental change and how we can support staff by helping them move from no to somewhat or somewhat to yes in regards to implementing behaviors/teaching moves that provide evidence of instructional practices we look for in our observations.
In our File Cabinet Review with Carol, the importance of behaviors was once again highlighted as we looked at the data from 223 teacher evaluations completed by 16 evaluators. Multiple tables mentioned the need for more consistency of language among evaluators. What is the best way to change this behavior? In addition, it was notable that the topic of diversity was only mentioned 11 times in 223 evaluations. We revised the Great 8 last year to include “Respects Differences” in an effort to bring a greater focus to our Strategic Initiative in the area of Cultural Competence. How can we revise our practice as evaluators to support a change in behaviors in this area?
Carol’s quote “You get what you assess for” reinforced the need for us to provide exemplars for staff to help support areas where we would like to see more growth.
The end of the day reinforced my admiration for the educators in Burlington as I witnessed the enthusiasm of the team as they rushed out the door to witness the eclipse. It is great to work with people who get so excited to see something extraordinary! Having educators who model this for our students is a behavior that we can never have enough of!
This past week, USA Today ran an article about the mixed reception that later school start times receive in many communities. The article highlighted the conversations that have taken place in Germantown, Tennessee during the past year as they move from a school day that spanned 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. to a school day that ran from 7:45 a.m. – 2:45 p.m.
One of the points made in the article is that the later start to the school day cannot happen in a vacuum. There must be other conversations that take place to ensure that students are learning about healthy sleep routines. Sleep expert, Dr. Merrill Wise notes the following in the article:
“We are living with a sleep deprivation epidemic…(The school day) one of the most modifiable factors that parents and school personnel could pursue…But a later start time isn’t solely the answer. Families have to be educated about healthy sleep schedules, prying electronic devices away from children at night and creating routines that lead to more sleep…Without those factors, schools may not see much difference in their children”
The article goes on to cite other struggles that schools across the country have had with the transition to later school start times (i.e. cost implications for transportation and later start and end times for extra curricular activities). The balanced look at the issue also contains links to other articles on the topic, including the following:
We are excited to have Lyn Hilt join us at BPSCon to support teachers and administrators in becoming more adept at using the vast resources available in the Google Suite for Education. Lyn spent over 15 years working as both a teacher and a Principal at the elementary and middle school levels in Pennsylvania. She is well known among educational leaders across the country for her work as both as a teacher and a Principal.
In a recent blog post, Lyn described her work as a consultant and the joy she gets in working with teachers around the country:
I love being a consultant. I know that to some educators, consultant is a dirty word. It need not be. As a teacher and principal, I, too, was skeptical of someone from “the outside” coming to our schools and classrooms to show & tell their way into our hearts and minds. In fact, I think I truly connected with and appreciated the work of maybe only a handful of consultants in my time as classroom teacher, coach, and principal. But most days, in this line of work, I leave with a smile on my face, feeling energized and privileged to work with the teachers and school leaders in my midst.