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First, the science:
Wahlstrom has promoted later start times for high schoolers, in particular, because she says the teenage brain develops differently than an adult or prepubescent brain.
For teens, the idea of going to bed early to wake up early doesn’t work, she said, because their bodies don’t experience a natural shift into sleep until 11 p.m. — no matter when the school start time might be. So the later the start, the better the chance of having a student in class ready to go.
Now, the findings:
• Performances on state standardized math tests rose at the South Washington County high schools, as did student grade-point averages, she said. (There were no significant changes in state reading test results.)
• About 59 percent of high school students surveyed said that they averaged eight or more hours of sleep.
• The total number of crashes involving 16- to 18-year-old drivers in Cottage Grove and Woodbury fell from 144 to 135, a 6 percent decline.
Of concern to Jacobus was a survey finding indicating that 88.5 percent of students went to bed with a cellphone in the room, a potential disruption that has led him to suggest to parents that they try to keep their teens away from electronic devices for about an hour before bedtime.
Kim Brinkoetter said that she is pleased that her son, Eric, manages to get eight hours of sleep, especially at a time when it’s so easy for students to stay up late messaging one another.
But, she added in a reference to the age-old struggle between parents and headstrong teens, “honestly, I don’t think it matters what time you tell a teenager ‘It’s time to go to bed.’ ”
Park Principal Kerry Timmerman, who taught and coached previously at Harding High in St. Paul, said that he could see the St. Paul district moving to later start times. He spoke, too, of remaining in contact with friends still working at Harding, and of kidding them about their ability to leave school at 4 p.m., when he still is on duty.
“I tell them that they’re slackers,” he said. “Of course, they have to get there earlier.”
Callie Sacarelos is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for The Star Tribune.
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