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Bet you China won’t push back school start times

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POSTED August 12, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Education elitist experts like to point out repeatedly how they believe China is cleaning our collective clock when it comes to public education.
So if the California Legislature is driven to find a quick fix for anemic student performance scores, instead of consulting the National Sleep Foundation, you’d think they’d research what China is doing.
Sacramento is an Assembly vote and the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown away from dictating that all California public schools must start school at 8:30 a.m. or later.
While it is aimed at trying to get underperforming students to test better — (let’s be honest this is based on test scores not outcomes) — on the assumption school is messing with their natural sleep patterns, there is a bit of anecdotal “evidence” in the mix. State Senator Anthony Portantino, the author of the bill, shared how rough of a time he has in waking his teen-age daughter up for school every day. One must assume the state senator’s daughter does quite well in school given the experts say supportive parents — and especially those with college education — play a key role in academic success.
It begs the question: Is sleep really the issue?
In China, students in large cities go to school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Does this mean if they push the start time back to 8:30 a.m. that China will be churning out Mensa candidates like they turnout Apple iPhones?
Portantino’s bill is based on the assumption the students that would benefit the most are in middle and high school. Middle school in China makes our middle school regimen seem like childcare. They start at 7 a.m. and go until 5 p.m. based on research conducted by the Hechinger Report that’s devoted to national education issues.  But it doesn’t end at 5 p.m. After a brief dinner break there is a scheduled physical fitness time before evening session starts at 7 p.m. The evening session functions like a study hall. Teachers are on hand to assist. They are also elective courses in the coveted STEM field — science, technology, electronics, and math. They are done by 9 p.m.
High school has an even heavier load. They start at 7 a.m., take a break from noon to 2 p.m., hit the books from 2 to 5 pm., take another break from 5 to 7 p.m. and then are in evening session from 7 to 11 p.m.
Minds Abroad co-founder Yao Zhang notes in the report that, “lack of sleep is very common for Chinese high school students.”
That means disruptive sleep patterns aren’t undermining academic performances if the Chinese indeed do have better academic outcomes than United States public schools as a whole. Could the factor that makes the difference not be the lack and timing of shut eye but rather cultural?
Plugging in the findings of the National Sleep Institute that is going to see pre-teen and teen sleep patterns as the answer for obvious reasons, Chinese teens would have no problem hitting the books in the evening as late as 11 p.m. given the institute notes teens are more alert at that time. But 7 a.m. school starts should be an academic disaster according to conclusions reached by America’s sleep experts and the education elitists that buy into the argument.
It is why a little bit of honesty is important even if it enrages the Holy Grail consortium of universities, education groups, government agencies and others that are zeroing in on sleep patterns rather than other contributing factors.
Is anyone willing to bet their retirement savings on whether teens will use the later start time to get more sleep?
Wouldn’t it be more productive to ban them from using smartphones that practically have to be surgically removed from their hands? Let’s not forget the eye strain and how that contributes to drowsiness that comes from having your nose buried in a smartphone for every waking minute.
To think that by Sacramento decreeing “thou shall not start school until after 8:30 a.m.” will lead to a seismic shift when it comes to student performance, you’d have to be living in La-La Land.
But then again the state senator who believes we’re a snooze away from academic excellence is from Los Angeles County.
The logical end of the 8:30 a.m. mandate that will send large waves and not mere ripples through schools and communities to deal with — especially in commute cities where it will likely leave large numbers of young kids parentless in the morning between their parents’ departure to work and the start of school — is to negate the time shift.
Most teens aren’t going to use that extra hour to pick up more sleep. All they need to do is stay up an hour later than they are currently.
The major flaw in their assumption goes to the acceptable guidelines they say teens need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep. To make that work now, most teens would have to be in bed by 9:30 p.m. If the state succeeds with establishing the later start mandate that means bedtime will need to start at 10:30 a.m.
Any bets on how many teens will end up doing that?
China’s regimen isn’t the answer. Maybe it’s distracted learning.
Any bets that students in China aren’t bombarded with sports and other activities, spend less time on the Internet and smartphones, spend less time playing video games, and don’t slack?
They obviously get as much — if not less sleep — than their American counterparts.

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