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A Systems Analysis of High School Start Times

From the November 12 issue of K-12Leads And Youth Service Markets Report.

Announcement: Consulting Services to Analyze Alternative School Hours of Operation Due December 10 Harford County Public Schools, MD

Their Description:
Harford County Public Schools, Maryland (HCPS) desires to engage a consultant to independently analyze alternative school hours of operation. The Consultant should evaluate the hypothesis that high school students increase their learning proficiency when they start school later in the morning and that elementary and middle school students learning is at least as effective earlier in the morning rather than later. The primary question is, “Is there a reasonable option that would enable high school students to start school later in the morning?”

HCPS currently maintains the following school schedule:

Start Dismiss
High Schools 7:30 am 2:00 pm
Middle Schools 8:15 am 2:45 pm
Elem. Schools 9:00 am 3:30 pm
John Archer 9:00 am 3:00 pm
Pre-K AM 9:00 am 11:30 am
Pre-K PM 1:00 pm 3:30 pm
All Day Pre-K 9:00 am 3:30 pm

North Harford Middle School will continue to operate on the same schedule as North Harford High School....

This document is a Request for Proposal (RFP). It differs from a Request for Bid/Quotation in that HCPS is seeking a solution.... As defined in the American Bar Association Model Procurement Code, Competitive Sealed Proposals will be evaluated based upon criteria formulated around the most important features of a product or service... and price may not be determinative in the issuance of a contract or award....

This is a two-step evaluation process. Technical proposals and Price Proposals must be submitted separately and labeled accordingly. Technical proposals will be evaluated first... The two highest scoring proposals may be required to provide an on-site presentation to the Selection Committee.... Following completion of the technical proposal evaluation and scoring, the price proposals will be opened and evaluated. The lowest price proposal of the two finalists that is totally responsive to all aspects of the performance requirements will be given a score of 100%.

The primary role of the Consultant is to perform a meta-analysis of research pertinent to school start times for high school, middle school, and elementary school students.... The range of options is not to be artificially restrained. Modifications to the following features, and possibly more, should be considered variable in the search of a better schedule:

• Start time changes at all three education levels;
• Dismissal times at all... levels;
• Multiple tiers of busing....
• Modification of length of instructional day within state requirements...;
• Addition of buses.... bus drivers and/or companies;
• Changes to extracurricular activities;
• Other variables recommended by the consultant....

HCPS has identified 7 categories of pros and cons to be evaluated for each option.

1. Sleep Needs
2. Safety
3. Childcare – Parent Perspective
4. Before/After School Activities....
5. High School Athletics
6. Before/After School Activities for Staff and Childcare for Employees
7. Transportation

My Thoughts:

1) At least on paper, this is a textbook example of an RFP written to create a level playing field. Maryland has come a long way from the days of Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandel.

2) After following RFPs weekly since 2004, this is the first time I've encountered such an opportunity for “action research,” tying theory to practical operations and bringing costs into the equation. This is a classic “systems analysis.”

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