By Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Remember how the Wizard of Oz, once the curtain was drawn back, turned out to be an insignificant little blowhard? What if “college education” in America, especially the kind that culminates in a bachelor’s degree, is headed toward a similar revelation?
Once upon a time, it was determined by the Great and the Good (as they say in England) that almost everyone needs a college education—and that the country needs for everyone to have a college education—and that it’s discriminatory and evil to deny anyone such an education. Whereupon we started slowly but surely to dilute what we mean by it.
That was inevitable in part because we weren’t able to fix our K–12 system to get everyone ready for what we formerly meant by college. When you declare that everyone—or almost everyone—should graduate from high school and enter college, you come smack up on the reality that tons of young Americans haven’t learned enough in twelve or thirteen years of school even to qualify for what we once meant by a high school diploma, much less college admission.
So at the high school end, we tried to boost standards—and some places did a pretty good job of it—but even much-praised Massachusetts wasn’t able to raise its high school exit standard to equal college readiness as traditionally defined. Lots of other places eased off or deferred their exit standards, while still others hacked alternate paths to diplomas that circumvented their exit standards and/or devised ersatz “credit recovery” schemes whereby diplomas could be “earned” without even passing the classes dictated by the old Carnegie Unit rules.
Then there’s the college end. There, our egalitarian impulse led us to create—starting decades ago—thousands of open-admission institutions that have essentially no prerequisites, often not even a high-school diploma (a GED will suffice, and maybe not even that). Then we watched selective campuses do away with some of their own long-standing prerequisites, such as the expectation that entering students would have studied and become reasonably proficient in at least one foreign language.
Most colleges employed (and many still do) placement tests to determine whether an entering student was adequately prepared to undertake credit-bearing courses in core subjects like math and English, with remedial classes assigned to those who weren’t. But remediation was an ugly and discouraging term, so a decade or two ago, it got relabeled “developmental,” and one of today’s hottest trends is to replace “developmental” with “co-requisite” courses, whereby you can actually earn credit toward a degree by completing a course with passing norms that may (or may not) fall somewhere between what we used to mean by remedial and credit-worthy.
Today’s other hot trend is “dual credit” or “early college,” whereby high school kids can begin to pile up credits toward a college degree while they’re still working on their diplomas. In some places (Texas, for example), dual credit can start as early as ninth grade—and some community colleges now derive close to half of their state formula dollars from enrolling high-school kids. Well-wrought early-college programs can be fine. Yet college credit via dual credit in most places is automatic for anyone who gets a passing grade from the instructor, who is typically an “adjunct” assigned by the community college and not infrequently a regular high school teacher with the appropriate master’s degree. Quality control is uneven, to put it gently.
Nor should we forget grade inflation, in both high school and college, whereby the kind of student work that once earned a “C” now gets at least a “B+.”
Along the way, because there was so much oomph behind the goal of getting everyone into college—and so much aversion to anything that resembles “tracking”—we devalued and stigmatized what used to be called vocational education and are now having to reinvent it under the shiny new label of “career and technical education” a.k.a. “CTE”. This stigmatizing of explicit workforce preparation had the further effect of wooing kids into college who, even by the degraded standards applied to them, were so ill-prepared that they were destined to falter, flunk, and drop out, often with a heavy debt burden—because as we were wooing everyone into college we also made it far costlier to attend, causing us to proffer easy credit to those who otherwise couldn’t swing it. If normal economic rules applied in this case, the student-debt “bubble” would make the tech and housing bubbles look like bubble tea.
Some kids got over-matched in the college where they found themselves, others under-matched. But the push to get more of them into college was relentless.
Everything seemed to make sense at the time. Many high school kids were bored, spinning their wheels during the last year or two, having completed their diploma requirements but not yet graduated. The economy needed a higher-skilled workforce. Many of tomorrow’s jobs appeared to demand college-level preparation. A college degree looked like the surest path to upward mobility. Everyone saw the urgency of increasing the enrollment of black and Latino students. And nobody, but nobody, dared take the risk of being called elitist, much less discriminatory.
There were, to be sure, efforts to hold the line on rigor, even to beef it up. Elementary-secondary academic standards rose—thanks mainly to the much-maligned Common Core—and many state tests improved, too. Some high school end-of-course exams are pretty solid (which doesn’t mean there aren’t paths around them). The Advanced Placement program has worked hard to justify its gold standard reputation, and the much smaller International Baccalaureate program does that, too. Large-scale assessments such as NAEP, TIMSS, and PISA have clung to their demanding norms and continue to speak the truth about actual performance in relation to those norms.
It’s those metrics, mainly, that reveal how little progress we’ve actually made, despite all the effort to get more kids a better education. That’s how we know that for every effort to beef up standards, there were moves to define “proficiency” downward, to ease back on cut scores, to create alternate paths, and to confer exemptions.
Those metrics are mostly at the K–12 level because the higher education industry has successfully stonewalled any comparable outcome measures of student learning. Hence today our best source of evidence of what college accomplishes is the work of analysts like Raj Chetty and Mark Schneider, who have been able to link college degrees—and different kinds of degrees in different fields from different kinds of colleges—to subsequent earnings.
From their analyses, and those of Anthony Carnevale and others, we’ve recently learned many things about the value of a college degree. We’ve learned that many respectable, well-paid jobs don’t require such degrees. We’ve learned that associate’s degrees, and industry certifications in some fields, pay better than many bachelor’s degrees. We’ve learned that some college degrees are far more reliable tickets to upward mobility than others–whether because of selection effects and the sorting that takes place at their admissions offices or because of the superior educational experience they deliver.
We’ve certainly learned that aspiring to a four-year bachelor’s degree for everybody, without regard to institution or field of study, is a costly, frustrating, and ultimately feckless target. It’s hard to be sure how much of that sober conclusion can be attributed to diminished, inflated grades, waivers, exemptions, and eyewinks that take the place of true academic accomplishment. Certainly it’s no secret that the more widespread a credential becomes, the less comparative advantage it confers on those possessing it. But it’s also no secret that a growing number of employers who once treated the college degree as a passport to hiring by their organizations now demand other evidence that an individual can truly do the job expected of him or her.
Please understand that I am not here seeking a return to some halcyon yesteryear when only the children of those with college degrees were expected to get their own degrees. Access to the varied (if limited) benefits of such degrees ought not be determined by zip code, parentage, or race. But—a very important but—that doesn’t mean individuals or society benefit when we cavalierly hand out credentials that, in the end, signify very little—credentials that, like grades, have themselves been inflated beyond their true worth.
Higher education today gives analysts, policymakers, and critics so much to fret about—cost, free speech, leftward lurching faculty, politically trendy majors—that we haven’t been paying nearly enough heed to the quality and value of the product itself. Some revisionism may be setting in as a few of the Great and the Good begin to weigh multiple pathways to prosperity and mobility. Some serious analysts and gutsy policymakers are pushing to catch up with Singapore, Switzerland, and other places that have long featured rigorous and respectable career preparation as well as university-style education. It’s important to note, however, that while they’re pushing for other pathways besides the traditional four-year college, they’re not paying much attention to the degraded state of the college degree itself. Practically nobody except the occasional cranky professor is doing that, and such critics are typically dismissed as academic snobs on a nostalgia trip. It’s impossible to get most policymakers beyond the smug assertion that “America has the best higher-education system in the world, the one that people from other countries clamor to get into.” What such claims usually refer to, of course, are the top hundred or so U.S. research universities—despite mounting evidence that they’re being gained on. And often it’s the graduate programs on those campuses, not their undergraduate colleges, that are the center of attention.
College itself is what needs a rethink, both in its own right and as a universal destination for young Americans. No, I’m not holding my breath, for many, many influential organizations, thinkers, and philanthropies remain wedded to “college for all,” and it’s too easy to get called nasty names if you cast doubt on that goal. The last thing these folks want is for anyone really to peel back the college curtain—as A Nation at Risk did for K–12 back in 1983. But we might do well to recall that scene where Toto darts behind the curtain in the Emerald City and finds a wimpy little non-wizard frantically working the controls of the machines he has been using to fool people into thinking that he’s mighty and magical.
My daughter had two great privileges growing up: she attended a pair of first-rate private schools; and she played youth sports for many years at a competitive level. Here’s something I’ve said privately for years, but have been reluctant to say publicly: If I had it to do all over again and could provide only one of those two advantages—private school or competitive sports—I’d choose sports. And it wouldn’t be a difficult decision.
Given my perch as a teacher and education policy analyst this is, I suspect, a surprising admission. My reason for coming out of the sports dad closet is a piece written last week by Mark L. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute. “Why do American parents push their kids so hard when it comes to sports, but not so much when it comes to academics?” he asks.
Hand wringing over Americans’ obsession with sports at the expense of academics is a hardy perennial in education writing, social commentary, and even sketch comedy. Many parents “don’t push their children very hard when it comes to academics” Perry explains, because they “don’t necessarily believe in the connection between effort and academic achievement, and don’t believe that academic success is within reach of any student willing to work hard for it.”
Not quite right. For starters, I don’t buy entirely the comparison; I’d wager that most parents still make participation in organized sports conditional based on their child’s keeping his or her grades up. It’s also easier for most parents to engage with their child’s athletics than academics. By the time my daughter was in middle school, my days of helping with her math homework were over. But I can still lace ‘em up and go for a run with her.
But there’s another explanation for our comparative indifference to academics, and it bears the thumbprints of education policymakers: If you are of a certain age, it’s a fair bet that your parents held you—and you alone—accountable for your grades in school. Over the past several decades, we have eroded student accountability, assigning it as a matter of public policy to schools and teachers. If a child is an indifferent student, even that is perceived to be an adult failure for failing to stimulate and engage every child. On the one hand, this was an essential corrective for decades of the system’s neglect and complacency; on the other, we have overcorrected to the point where we hold children insufficiently accountable for their educational outcomes.
Eric Kalenze, Director of Education Solutions for the child-development research firm Search Institute, made precisely this point in his under-appreciated 2014 book Education is Upside-Down. “As responsibility for engaging students and helping them succeed has almost completely shifted to teachers, any personal stakes students may have had in their own education has dwindled down to nothing,” he wrote.
While there’s no shortage of toxic and obnoxious sports parents eager to blame coaches, referees, even other kids—for their child’s poor performance, competitive sports remain unabashedly old school. Kids are held directly accountable. You show up, work hard and perform, or else you sit; the scoreboard is the last word in accountability and resiliency. School-based “social-emotional learning” rarely equals the lessons learned through long hours of practice alongside teammates to whom you are directly and intimately accountable. Small wonder then that many parents “push” their kids to excel as athletes. You’re simply more likely to see a clear cause-and-effect relationship between effort and outcome in sports than in school. Perry hints at this in his piece noting—correctly, I think—that grade inflation and the “diffusion and degradation” of academic excellence “would never be tolerated in sports where there are still state champions, state rankings for sports teams, and state records like track and swimming.”
Most parents still hold their kids accountable for their efforts in school, but that effort is more visible in sports. Mike Goldstein, the founder of Boston’s MATCH Charter School points out that we get to watch our kids play volleyball and basketball. Physics lab is not a spectator sport. “I suspect if this were reversed—never see sports, frequently see kid-in-classroom—so would the headline,” he sagely notes.
It has become commonplace to complain about youth sports where kids play without keeping score and everyone gets a participation trophy. Criticizing parents for valuing sports over academics is the exact opposite complaint, and just as overly broad. A more sober critique might ask what lessons one can learn from the other. We are comfortable recognizing and cultivating extraordinary talent and ambition in sports; we think it’s un-egalitarian to accept unequal ability and outcomes in school. In sports you rarely succeed without putting in the work. In school, we create the illusion of success when it’s not entirely warranted, particularly when it serves adult interests to be less than candid with kids about where they actually stand. The stopwatch and the scoreboard are the most honest report cards some kids will ever get.
Comparisons between sports and school are inexact, and it’s not a binary choice. I can afford to be somewhat blithe about my daughter’s schools because of the considerable advantages conferred upon her by race, class, and zip code. But it’s a mistake to assume parents don’t see the connection between hard work, practice, and rewards in school. For many, those habits and virtues are simply more likely to be learned—and more likely to stick—on the court and between the lines than in class.
One founding premise of the charter school initiative was that these new schools would be laboratories of innovation. Cutting red tape would free educators to test new approaches that, if successful, could be incorporated into the regular school-district environment.
In reality, however, what makes the highest-performing charters so effective is tireless staff and a relentless pursuit of continuous improvement, not curricular or pedagogical innovations.
Yet there’s a stir within several of the best charter school networks that deserves to inspire imitation in schools of all stripes. It’s not about technology or school culture, or even pedagogy. It’s the embrace of a broad, well-rounded, content-rich curriculum, starting in the early elementary grades. This approach to what’s taught to young children would constitute a sea change for U.S. elementary schools in general and charter schools in particular.
In the No Child Left Behind–Race to the Top era, reading and math scores determined a school’s accountability rating, and in English language arts classrooms, the mandate was “learn to read, and then read to learn.”
Many elementary educators are rediscovering that this approach, however logical-sounding and well-meaning, simply doesn’t work well with many children. A more evidence-based mantra would be, “learn a bit about everything, so you can read about anything”—or in the words of University of Virginia cognitive scientist Dan Willingham, “Teaching content is teaching reading.” This points to a seismic shift in how we allocate students’ learning time in the early grades.
Building a knowledge base
Born in Houston as the Knowledge Is Power Program for middle schoolers, KIPP is now the biggest and best-known national charter network, educating 88,000 students in 209 schools nationwide. Almost all KIPPsters are poor and minority, and the KIPP network now extends from pre-K through high school and college graduation.
Despite the “knowledge” in its name, KIPP didn’t launch its elementary schools with any uniform curriculum, instead trusting such choices to principals and teachers at the building and classroom levels. As in many American elementary schools, reading focused on teaching kids how to decode words (phonics, phonemic awareness, etc.), followed by plenty of exposure to texts targeted precisely at students’ current reading levels, plus ample practice at the skills of “reading comprehension.” This, it was widely believed, was the recipe for helping children in general, and low-income students in particular, to achieve “grade-level reading” by the end of the third grade.
At first it seemed to be working. A 2015 Mathematica study found KIPP elementary schools making a statistically significant impact on letter-word identification and passage comprehension. Other analyses showed KIPP schools, and other high-poverty charter schools, narrowing the reading proficiency gap compared with schools in more affluent areas.
Sadly, some of this charter progress might have been a mirage. In the NCLB era, schools could narrow the proficiency gap by helping students reach a relatively low bar, even if more affluent students were achieving well over that bar. Overly easy tests gave schools false confidence. In later grades, early progress appeared to fade. Students could decode words, but often struggled to comprehend what they were reading in middle and high school classrooms.
With the adoption of the Common Core standards in 2010—and especially with the implementation of aligned assessments in 2015—the flaws in America’s approach to reading instruction became clear. ELA proficiency rates plummeted nationwide. For even the best charter schools, the achievement gap was once again a mile wide.
Willingham has been arguing for years that background knowledge in subjects such as history, geography, science, and literature is essential for students to comprehend the wide variety of passages they later encounter—in class, online, at the library, or on state tests. A second-grader might be able to sound out “Ty-ran-no-saur-us Rex,” but if she hadn’t been taught about dinosaurs, the term would hold no meaning for her. The way to address this isn’t to drill seven-year-olds on SAT words, but to teach them about dinosaurs and other animals, the history of the United States and the world, cultures here and abroad, key folk stories and works of children’s literature, and so on.
This is particularly important for low-income students, who tend to learn most content in school and, unlike affluent children of college-educated parents, generally do not get to benefit from trips to museums, story times at the library, and other opportunities.
Most importantly, learning about the world and how it works need not wait until kids learn to read. In the early grades, children can and should learn essential content by listening to books read aloud, watching educational videos, and partaking in experiential activities—opportunities that wealthier kids enjoy. By middle school, when children can “read to learn” about these topics, many disadvantaged youngsters are hopelessly behind in their reading comprehension abilities, precisely because they lack the knowledge base that makes comprehension possible.
Keys to the knowledge kingdom
These insights were embedded into college- and career-ready standards that most states adopted in 2010. However, educators could be forgiven for missing it. The standards in English language arts are focused almost entirely on decoding, comprehension, and writing skills. It’s a complementary passage that unlocks the keys to the knowledge kingdom:
By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas. Students can only gain this foundation when the curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades.
Adopting such a curriculum is up to educators. And as with most elementary schools, charter schools like those in the KIPP network were late to the party. But, as they say, better late than never.
A coherent curriculum
In 2015, as the new assessments were starting to unmask the big achievement gaps that still afflicted many KIPP pupils, the network embarked on one of its most important initiatives. Rather than viewing curricular uniformity as a straightjacket, KIPP would build a coherent curriculum as a resource for its teachers.
That became the job of Dana Fulmer, director of ELA curriculum and assessment at the KIPP Foundation. Fulmer is a lifelong educator, who spent most of her career directing professional development in public and private schools. Inspired by leading educators such as Robert Marzano and Mike Schmoker and working with the nonprofit group Great Minds, she led a two-year effort to design what would eventually be called the KIPP-Wheatley curriculum.
Fulmer and her colleagues set out with three goals. First, the program was to be “joyful.” Fulmer wanted KIPPsters to “love books, to love reading, to love writing.” A second goal was to build students’ reading and writing skills, with particular focus on close reading. Rather than having students read little snippets of text, they would read something meaty over and over again through different lenses.
The group’s final, and arguably most important, goal was to develop “world knowledge”—science, social studies, art, and literature—commencing in kindergarten with lots of read-alouds. The curriculum is designed around topics, such as bridges or the Underground Railroad. “We stay with those topics for seven weeks, intentionally,” Fulmer says, because of the importance of content knowledge, and because as students go deeper into a content area, the level of text complexity that they can handle rises and their vocabulary expands. The ability to tackle more complex text is the key to boosting reading comprehension.
KIPP and Great Minds created the first drafts of KIPP-Wheatley, which KIPP then adapted, highlighting what worked for KIPP’s mission and network. Great Minds tested the drafts in 12 public and charter schools across the country and created Wit & Wisdom, a K–8 coherent curriculum based on the same principles.
“People are seeing results,” Fulmer says. “Students and teachers love the texts, are engaging more with the texts, and writing and vocabulary are improving.”
The curriculum’s use in KIPP schools is voluntary, though “strongly encouraged.” Uptake has been high, however, as teachers hear from one another about the successes they are seeing with their students. KIPP is now sharing the curriculum with other charter schools, and public schools too.
Not just for KIPP
Several other high-performing charter networks, including Achievement First, Uncommon Schools, and Success Academy, are also discovering the need for a new approach to teaching reading. Success is particularly aggressive about a well-rounded curriculum, with units on the Wampanoag, Greek myths, and the American Revolution—all before kids turn ten!
Traditional public schools can use Great Minds’ Wit & Wisdom curriculum, which just received nearly perfect scores and all “green lights” from EdReports.org. Or, they can download the Success Academy curriculum for free.
This might not be exactly “innovative,” but it sure represents progress.
Editor’s note: A version of this essay originally appeared in Principal Magazine.
On this week's podcast, special guest Andy Smarick, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, joins Mike Petrilli and Brandon Wright to discuss his review of David Osborne’s new book, Reinventing America’s Schools. During the Research Minute, David Griffith examines how heightened parent expectations affect Chinese students born during the Year of the Dragon.
Amber’s Research Minute
Nacu H. Mocan and Han Yu, “Can Superstition Create a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? School Outcomes of Dragon Children of China,” National Bureau of Economic Research (August 2017).
The Council of Chief State School Officers launched the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) in 2013. Its purpose is to identify states with track records of innovative teacher preparation and support them in their efforts to implement aggressive and lasting improvements. The network’s first cohort comprised seven states: Connecticut, Idaho, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Washington. In 2015, they were joined by eight more states: California, Delaware, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.
A new report examines the progress of those states, mainly in four key areas: stakeholder engagement; licensure reform; preparation program standards, evaluation, and approval; and the use of data to measure success.
In the realm of stakeholder engagement, participating states were required to outline how they would gain the “public and political will to support policy change.” Collaborations between stakeholder groups led several states to recognize the importance of clinical practice for new teachers. For instance, a working group made up of the Louisiana’s Department of Education, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Board of Regents collaborated to create a yearlong classroom residency for new teachers alongside an experienced mentor teacher, complemented by a competency-based curriculum.
Since states determine their own teacher licensure policies, NTEP focuses on how participating states could ensure that candidates who earn a license are ready for the rigors of the classroom on their very first day. States have made strides in various ways, including requiring performance-based licensure assessments, setting higher minimum GPA requirements for entry into preparation programs, and requiring programs to extend and improve candidates’ clinical experiences. But difficult challenges remain, including license reciprocity across state lines and establishing effective licensure systems.
Another important reform that NTEP states are pursuing is toughening their approval and reauthorization standards for teacher preparation programs. States including Kentucky made progress in this domain by developing an accountability system that includes information about the selectivity of programs, the performance of candidates on licensure exams, and scores on evaluations of practicing teachers. States also updated the standards used to review and approve programs by transitioning from examining inputs, like faculty qualifications or program resources to examining how prospective teachers perform while in the program.
As for using data effectively, participating NTEP states recognize the importance of measuring new teachers’ effectiveness. But CCSSO also found that the quality and relevance of collected data are sorely lacking. NTEP states overcame these obstacles by auditing data that were already being collected in order to ensure that they were shared with other agencies and programs; building and implementing improved data systems; providing data-related training to state and institutional staff; and developing data-based rating systems for preparation programs. California, for example, uses its statewide teacher preparation data system to create public dashboards that show how a program’s graduates score on assessments as well as the results of district surveys about newly hired teachers’ performance.
Finally, although NTEP focused on state policy, several higher education institutions within states made significant changes in order to transform the way they prepare their candidates. Clemson University, for example, plans to offer a combined bachelor’s-master’s degree path with an embedded teacher residency program. Similarly, Missouri State University’s College of Education created an internship program that replaced the traditional twelve weeks of student teaching with a yearlong co-teaching model.
For states that are interested in making advancements with their teacher preparation programs and policies, this report serves as a good place to start.
SOURCE: “Transforming Educator Preparation: Lessons Learned from Leading States,” The Council of Chief State School Officers (September 2017).
As we’ve come to learn more about sleep and how it affects adolescents, school start times (SST) have become part of a national conversation. Several studies published in prestigious outlets such as the American Economic Journal and Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine indicate that later SST could be beneficial for students, as insufficient sleep is associated with poor academic performance, increased automobile crash mortality, obesity, and depression. And as more benefits of sleep have come to light, several medical organizations—such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine—have recommended that middle and high schools shouldn’t start until 8:30 a.m. However, understandable concerns about pushing back SST remain, largely regarding increased transportation costs and whether the shift might negatively affect after-school extracurricular activities and employment opportunities.
Enter RAND Europe and the RAND Corporation, which conducted a recent study in which they aim to gauge whether the benefits of later SST are worth the costs. Throughout the process, they sought to address two questions: If there were universal shifts in SST to 8:30 a.m.—versus the U.S. average start time of 8:03 a.m.—what would the economic impact be? And would that shift be a cost-effective policy measure?
Based on prior studies, the researchers focused principally on the notion that students would reap academic benefits given the opportunity to gain additional sleep in the morning; this includes increased high school graduation and college-matriculation rates that in turn should generate economic gains. They also assumed benefits in decreased mortality based on fewer automobile accidents tied to sleep deprivation. On the cost side of the ledger, the RAND analysts considered increased transportation expenses to accommodate the later SST and infrastructure costs associated with pushing back extracurricular start times (e.g., installing lights for athletic fields).
Based on their cost-benefit calculations, the RAND analysts predicted that universally delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m. would be a cost-effective policy. On a national scale, they estimated that after as little as two years, there could be a significant return on investment—an economic gain of about $8.6 billion to the U.S. economy. After ten years, the researchers predicted that the later SST policy would contribute a cumulative $83 billion to the economy. In per-student terms, the analysts predicted a $346 benefit two years after the policy change and $3,309 after ten years. State-by-state estimates were also provided. These net benefits assumed what the RAND analysts consider “normal” costs associated with the policy shift (a $150 per student bump in transportation costs and upfront infrastructure costs of $110,000 per school). However, under higher cost assumptions, RAND analysts estimated diminished returns that don’t actually turn positive for quite some time. For instance, in the higher cost simulations, the payoff of later SST in many states doesn’t turn positive until ten years after the policy change.
This study suggests that it’s worth it to modestly delay start times. Of course, their findings hinge on assumptions about the aggravation and costs associated with changing school schedules. But in practice, schools across the country are indeed making this shift, likely in the hopes of increasing the odds of students arriving to school safely and improving their readiness to learn from the moment they step through their school’s doors. These schools seem to recognize that the old phrase, “you snooze, you lose” might not be correct after all. We shall see.
SOURCE: Marco Hafner, Martin Stepanek, Wendy M. Troxel, “Later school start times in the U.S.: An economic analysis,” RAND Europe (2017).