BofE Candidate Justin Manley's Response to Yale Study Query

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Metuchen Matters: A recent Yale study claims that high schoolers are bored, stressed and tired from the contemporary curriculum. How do we ensure in our district that we will be able to engage our students and encourage them in rigorous academic challenge without increasing the amount of stress and anxiety the current system seems to create in their lives?

Justin Manley: This is an interesting question based on a study that is actually still ongoing by The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence in partnership with Born This Way Foundation (founded by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta). The two are launching a national campaign, the Emotion Revolution, to learn more about how high school students currently feel in school, how they hope to feel, and what is needed to bridge the gap. The goal is to push our nation's education system toward creating the best possible learning environments through evidence-based social and emotional learning.

The presentation of the preliminary findings on October 24th at a full day summit revealed the initial results of 22,000 surveyed high schoolstudents. In the questionnaire, the respondents were asked "How do you currently feel in school?" Three blank spaces followed, with room for any answers they felt were appropriate. The results show that 39% of the respondents said they were "tired", 29% said, "stressed", 26% said "bored" and 22% said "happy". While the question asked of us focuses on stress, the number I find statistical significant in the results is actually "tired". It stands apart from the crowd and is known medically to be the potential source of both stress and boredom.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, "Adolescents today face a widespread chronic health problem: sleep deprivation. Research shows that getting enough sleep is a biological necessity, as important to good health as eating well or exercising. Teens are among those least likely to get enough sleep; while they need on average 9 1/4 hours of sleep per night for optimal performance, health and brain development, teens average fewer than 7 hours per school night by the end of high school, and most report feeling tired during the day (Wolfson & Carskadon, 1998). The roots of the problem include poor teen sleep habits that do not allow for enough hours of quality sleep; hectic schedules with afterschool activities and jobs, homework hours and family obligations; and a clash between societal demands, such as early school start times, and biological changes that put most teens on a later sleepwake clock. 

As a result, when it is time to wake up for school, the adolescent's body says it is still the middle of the night, and he or she has had too little sleep to feel rested and alert." Mary Carskadon, PhD, a renowned expert on adolescent sleep, cites several advantages for teens to get the sleep they need:

· less likelihood of experiencing depressed moods;

· reduced likelihood for tardiness;

· reduced absenteeism;

· better grades;

· reduced risk of drowsy driving;

and · reduced risk of metabolic and nutritional deficits associated with insufficient sleep, including obesity.

"Changing school start times is not the only step needed," says Dr. Carskadon. She also advocates reducing weekend sleep lag (staying up later). "It's important to add sleep to the school curriculum at all grade levels and make sleep a positive priority." In Metuchen we focus and strive to use the whole child approach to learning. The five tenets of this methodology state that each child, in each school deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged. 

We further enhance these goals by seeking to create well rounded students and adults who are given opportunities to participate in many activities. Whether they be clubs, band, sports, theatre or the arts, we offer a plethora of opportunities for students to grow outside of the classroom. While all of these things are fantastic it remains true that they are all time consuming. I think it will be important as we move into the future to evaluate our start times, the volume of homework being given out and looking at the possibility of adding the importance of sleep to our health curriculum as well communications with our parents. As with almost everything we do in the schools, if it is not supported at home, it is much less likely to be effective. When parents, students, teachers, and administrators all work together towards a common goal, amazing things can happen. 

"Backgrounder: Later school start times." Sleepfoundation.org. National Sleep Foundation. Web. 26 October 2015 "School Start Time and Sleep" Sleepfoundation.org. National Sleep Foundation. Web. 26 October 2015

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