17-42 Segment 1: Why the Opposition To Later School Start Times?


On average, the secondary school day begins at 8 a.m, which can make for some groggy students. Most parents will complain that their teen likes to stay up late and sleep in, but there is actually a scientific explanation behind that tendency. The hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep, behaves differently during the teenage years, meaning that a teen’s sleep schedule is about two hours behind the rest of the world. According to Dr, Wendy Troxel, Senior Behavioral and Social Scientist, Rand Corp. and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, it’s a lot like having continuou jet lag for a few years. Dr.Terra Ziporyn Snider, Executive Director and co-founder of Start School Later, says that most teens get the bulk of their REM sleep between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., which is also the time they are being woken up for school.

Dr. Snider says that even though it might seem that the problem is teens staying up late on their phones, that in the end the problem is really the early start time for school, because it forces the student into an unhealthy sleep pattern.  says Dr. Ziporyn Snider. Dr. Troxel also points to thirty years of research that shows that later start times help students succeed.

So, if later start times are scientifically shown to be better, why hasn’t the public school system adopted them? According to Dr. Snider, it comes down to school politics and backlash from parents. Communities who have considered pushing back start times receive parent complaints about how the schedule affects after-school activities and before and after school care, how families who also have elementary school students have to change their routines, and even about the different traffic patterns later in the day. All of these concerns become reasons for schools to keep things as they are. In contrast, however, school administrators who have committed to the change say they will never go back, because the students show up more, and perform better.


  • Dr. Wendy Troxel, Senior Behavioral and Social Scientist, Rand Corp. and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Pittsburgh
  • Dr. Terra Zipporyn Snider, Executive Director and co-founder, Start School Later organization

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Medical Notes 17-09



Medical Notes this week…

            Women who’ve suffered a miscarriage and are trying to get pregnant again might want to think about taking a daily baby aspirin. A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism tested women who had lost a previous pregnancy and scored high for inflammation in the body. Researchers found that those who took a daily low dose aspirin were 31 percent more likely to become pregnant than women who took a placebo and 35 percent more likely to carry the baby to term. However, researchers say it’s too early to recommend aspirin to prevent pregnancy loss. 

            Statistics show that obese girls don’t do as well in school as their thinner counterparts. But a new study in the journal Sociology of Education finds that at least part of the difference may be due to discrimination on the part of their teachers. Researchers say even when they score the same on ability tests, obese white girls receive worse grades than their thinner peers.

            And finally here’s one more thing to put on the list of things to never eat—snow. And it doesn’t matter what color the snow is. A study in the journal Environmental Science, Processes and Impacts finds that snow is remarkably efficient at absorbing particulate air pollution that you find in car exhaust. It’s like a sponge. So catching snowflakes with your tongue may not be as pure as we thought.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

15-40 Segment 1: Misunderstanding Autism


Synopsis: Autism has been misunderstood ever since its first description in the 1940’s. Experts describe how this misunderstanding has drastically affected treatment of people with autism, and how schools and other institutions might change their approach and understanding to improve treatment.

Host: Reed Pence. Guests: Steve Silberman, author, Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity; Dr. Barry Prizant, Professor, Artists & Scientists As Partners group, Brown University and author, Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism

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Click here for the transcript

15-39 Segment 2: The Importance of Play


Synopsis: Many schools are cutting down on recess to focus on the 3R’s, but child development experts say play is part of children’s “work” and an important part of how they learn. One expert discusses.

Host: Nancy Benson. Guest: Ann Gadzikowski, Early Childhood Coordinator, Center for Talent Development, Northwestern Univ. and author, Creating a Beautiful Mess: The Essential Experiences for a Joyful Childhood

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Click here for the transcript