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An Easy Way to Raise Student Achievement
by Susan Ohanian
If the Obama/Duncan team cared about children, instead of marching in lockstep behind the Business Roundtable agenda, they'd be sponsoring Get More Sleep programs. Children get an hour less sleep than they did thirty years ago. Experts provide evidence that this results in lowered IQ, ADHD, and obesity.
Race to Nowhere provides a harrowing picture of teens who are quite literally embraced the race promoted by Duncan and company. They don't eat and take drugs so they can stay awake longer--and get their homework done and thereby compile impressive resumes for their college applications.
As Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman document in NurtureShock, sleep matters. It matters even more to children than adults. Some scientists theorize that sleep problems during formative years can cause permanent changes in a child's brain structure. "It's even possible that many of the hallmark characteristics of being a tweener and teen--moodiness, depression, and even binge eating--are actually just symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation." (31)
Dr. Avi Sadeh's research showed that "A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development." The performance gap caused by an hour's difference in sleep was bigger than the gap between a normal fourth-grader and a normal sixth-grader.
Things get worse in high school because that's when there's a steep drop-off in kids' sleep. Research by Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom at the University of Minnesota shows that every extra fifteen minutes of sleep counts a lot in grades.
The evidence presented in Chapter Two of NurtureShock indicates that if the U. S. Department of Education would bribe high schools to provide later school start times instead of, say, demanding allegiance to national standards, student achievement would rise.
But this kind of thinking gets no traction. It lacks:
- money for consultants
- money for test developers
- money for publishers
- the political punch of blaming teachers
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