What’s happening with Start Time in Massachusetts?

The state of Massachusetts has really woken up to the issue of school start time and the role it playing in sleep deprivation for teens (see Massachusetts Is Waking Up to Sleep-Friendly Schools, April 11, 2016), but what’s been happening in the state and where do things stand?

First, let’s look at start time nation-wide. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) compiles data on start time for all public middle schools, high schools, and combined schools in the country in the 2011-2012 school year (see CDC – School Start Times for Middle School and High School Students). What did they find?

Average Start Time is 8:03am

The average national middle and high school start time was 8:03am. Nationally, only 17.7% of schools meet the recommendation by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatricians that middle and high schools should start after 8:30am, for the health and safety of our children – the CDC says that schools still start too early (see CDC: Sschools Start Too Early).

The CDC also breaks down the data by state. This chart shows the data, broken out by state (note that Maryland and D.C. did not report on data). See Teens Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep And Schools Are Partly To Blame for the map and article.

CDC reports on school start time

The average start time for the state of Massachusetts is 7:53am. As you can see from the map, the northeast has unusually early start times compared to the nation as a whole. Here is a breakdown of the data for Massachusetts vs. the nation:

CDC Data on Middle and High schools 2011-12 NATIONAL Massachusetts
Average start time 8:03am 7:53am
% Start before 7:30am 6.7% 8.0%
% Start between 7:30am and 7:59am 31.9% 53.3%
% Start between 8:00am and 8:29am 43.7% 27.2%
% Start after 8:30am 17.7% 11.5%

In the state of Massachusetts, 11.5% of middle and high schools start after 8:30am, which is approximately 80 schools. These schools are not investigating start time because they are already meeting the recommendations of the CDC and the AAP. In addition, 27.2% of middle and high schools start between 8:00am and 8:29am, which is approximately 190 schools. A handful of these districts are now looking at moving start time even later.

Masconomet Regional School starts at 7:35am, so it is groups with the 53.3% of schools in the state that start between 7:30am and 7:59am, but most of the schools in that group likely start later than Masconomet, which is at the edge of it’s group. The Masconomet start time is among the earliest starts in the state. It is just 5 minutes away from the earliest group – the 8% of schools (approximately 56 schools) that start before 7:30am.

Which towns are looking at start time now?

That’s a hard question to answer because there isn’t one central listing of schools. However, the Start School Later organization keeps a list of chapters, and the local media has been reporting on towns (Boston Globe and Wicked Local, in particular). Some schools also have information about start time changes on their web site. This is a list of towns that are known to be currently active in investigating a start time change as of June 2016:

Towns that have committed to make the change:
  • Arlington (part of Middlesex league)
  • Ashland (fall of 2017, 8:15am start)
  • Beverly (changed around 2007)
  • Belmont (part of Middlesex league)
  • Burlington (part of Middlesex league)
  • Canton (fall of 2016, 40m later)
  • Concord-Carlisle (fall of 2017)
  • Easton (fall of 2016, 7:55am)
  • Hanover (fall of 2016, 7:55am)
  • Melrose (part of Middlesex league), fall 2018
  • Monomoy Regional HS (fall of 2017, 8:30am start)
  • Nauset (changed in 2012)
  • Reading (part of Middlesex league)
  • Sharon (changed in 2010)
  • Stoneham (part of Middlesex league)
  • Watertown (part of Middlesex league)
  • Westborough (fall of 2018)
  • Wilmington (part of Middlesex league)
  • Winchester (part of Middlesex league)
The schools in the Middlesex Athletic League have signed a pledge to move all start times to be 8-8:30am by the fall of 2018 (see Middlesex League Superintendents agree to start school later).
Other towns and School Committees actively considering the issue – some are close to a final recommendation, a few have just started.
  • Acton/Boxborough (committee has recommended a change in start time)
  • Barnstable
  • Boston
  • Chesterfield
  • Denis-Yarmouth
  • Dover-Sherborn
  • East Longmeadow
  • Framingham
  • Franklin
  • Georgetown (part of Cape Ann League)
  • Hamilton-Wenham (part of the Cape Ann League)
  • Kingston (Silverlake Regional HS)
  • Lenox
  • Masconomet Regional
  • Mashpee
  • Natick
  • Nashoba Regional HS
  • Newburyport (part of the Cape Ann League)
  • Newton
  • Northampton
  • Northborough/Southborough (Algonquin Regional High School) and they are working with the 10 other districts in the Asset Valley Collaborative to change start times together
  • North Andover (made a small change a few years ago, is looking into it again)
  • Plymouth-Carver Regional High School
  • Sudbury
  • Taunton
  • Wayland
  • Westborough
  • Weston
  • Worcester

In addition all Berkshire county schools: editorials have begun to appear calling on ALL 10 school districts in Berkshire County schools to move start time forward