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A 10 a.m. Start Time for High School? Some Say Yes

High School

Would teens be better off with a 10 o'clock start time in high school?

Would your high schooler be better off starting the school day at 10 a.m.? A weekly public affairs magazine in Canada says yes.

At Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute in Toronto, students are in their second year of a later start time for classes and some are claiming it’s a better fit with the biological clocks of teens. In an opinion piece, Maclean magazine said other schools should consider following suit.

Because of the shift in sleep patterns that are a natural accompaniment to sexual maturation, teens have an ability to stay up later and sleep in — a feature that one study called part of the definition of adolescence. (“You’re officially an adult when you can’t stay up all night anymore,” the study said.)

It’s apparently a featured rooted in biology, not just social arrangements, and has been confirmed in studies using “actigraphs”—wristwatch-like devices that measure tossing and turning in bed—and the sampling of melatonin, the hormone that serves as the mammalian body’s clock.

Research suggests teens behave worse when their day starts earlier and gets better later in the day. While the correlation between school performance and later school start times has yet to be determined, a 2009 study shows that kids who get fewer than six hours of sleep were twice as likely to report poor grades upon follow-up a year later. And another recent study showed a one-hour forward shift in the start times meant longer reported hours of sleep as well as a 17 percent reduction in accident rates among teen drivers.

The Maclean editors seem to understand that starting early helps teach kids responsibility and prepare them for real life and jobs they might eventually have that being at 8 a.m., but they also point out that many kids will not necessarily enter the “simple world of classic nine-to-five work governed by a steam whistle.”

I haven’t been a teen for a long (long) time, but getting up early was (and still is) the bane of my existence. Still, I’m not sure if I can blame my distaste for early mornings on anything I might have failed to accomplish then or now. Furthermore, I would have hated to extend the start time of my day if it meant my day dragged on later in the afternoon.

But on the other hand, not having to rouse in the dark for much of the year would have undoubtedly been lovely, particularly in high school. And I can say I’m not looking forward to June when we’ll have to start waking up our daughter when she starts preschool, because she likes to linger in bed in the mornings, too.

I’m not sure if there’s a right answer, although I’m sure the majority of high school students would disagree.

What would you think about a 10 a.m. start time for kids in high school?

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