School Start Time and Daylight-Saving Time

Growing up, I briefly experienced daylight-saving time (DST) in 1978 when it was enforced by the Marcos administration. Here in the DC area, we continue to observe daylight-saving time. This year, it runs from March 10 to November 3. This means, we lose one hour of sleep sometime in March and regain that hour some time in November. Our candidate for representative to the school board, Ricardy Anderson, includes in her platform, school start times for middle school. Recommendations made by health professionals are clear with respect to aligning school schedules to a child's biological clock. Fairfax county uses a staggered schedule for its elementary, middle and high schools to meet school bus resources. Apparently absent in these considerations is the fact that we in fact enforce on all children an hour disruption every year in March. Schools clearly start one hour earlier sometime in March when daylight-saving time begins.

Moving the clock an hour ahead, which happens in the Spring, means waking time is an hour earlier. Schools essentially begin an hour earlier. This is a significant disruption in a child's schedule. The time a child needs to be at the bus stop when this happens often becomes earlier than sunrise. Suddenly, children are walking to school when it is still dark. It is not just the darkness although this already puts children at greater risk. The disruption can actually have significant effects on a child's academic performance. There is a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics that shows a clear negative relationship between daylight-saving time and scores in the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT):

The study looks at SAT scores across the state of Indiana and compares regions with and without daylight-saving time. The effects of daylight-saving time are significant and cut across all socio-economic groups. But children from poor families are much more affected.

Middle schools in my district are currently starting at 7:30 am. We are still in daylight-saving time so schools are in fact starting at 6:30 am (standard time). It is only in November when the clock falls back that middle school children will be starting school at 7:30 am (standard time). Clocks moving backward in November is not disruptive since it adds an hour. It is the adjustment in Spring, sometime in March, that is detrimental because it means schools will begin again at 6:30 am (standard time). It is losing an hour of sleep that matters. Children in middle schools are also on their way to adolescence so clocks moving forward in Spring when children are farther along the school year, and are therefore closer to being a teenager, whose sleep pattern requires later waking time.

It is useful to optimize the school start time so that it matches the biological clock of children. However, equally important, is avoiding disruptions in a child's schedule. Daylight-saving time is disruptive. It is artificial, not biological.

Gaskin and Sagarin end their research article this way (which I find sort of sad and amusing):
To be fair, for one nation or state to abandon the widespread worldwide DST practice could have some offsetting negative economic impact, possibly stemming from commercial inconvenience. Given the results represented here, however, the Kamstra et al. (2000) suggestion may be something for world governments to ponder collectively-unless those govemment officials have already suffered the cognitive debilitation of too much DST.
Kamstra et al. (2000) Kamstra, M. J., Kramer, L. A., & Levi, M. D. (2000). Losing slcep at the market: The daylight saving


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