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You’re Not the Only One Who Thinks School Start Times Are Too Early

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I remember going to high school and constantly being so tired throughout the morning that just keeping my eyes open in class felt like a success. It would take me the first hour or two to clear the cobwebs from my brain, at which point I’d already zoned out for two classes. Even though I went to school way back before cell phones — and even pagers — I imagine nothing much has changed. School still starts really early and tweens and teens still need tons of sleep that they aren’t getting between after-school activities, staying up late to finish homework, and getting up early to make it to school on time. Needless to say, it has led to discussions about changing the start time of school.

According to CNN, a new policy statement published by the American Academy of Pediatrics says tired students perform worse in school than well-rested students because DUH. No kidding. Is it any news that lack of sleep in teens causes poor academic performance? Not only that, but not getting enough sleep is a huge health concern, not only for the person not getting enough sleep. The policy statement lists traffic accidents, depression, and obesity as just a few of the issues resulting from early start times and tired students. As CNN notes, “the technical report released with the policy statement says that sleep-deprived teens tend to eat more carbohydrates and fats, with every hour of sleep that is lost increasing the odds of obesity by 80%. Adolescents that go to sleep at midnight or later are also more likely to suffer from depression and have suicidal thoughts.”

On the flip side, schools that start later have less tired students, less tardiness, and better academic performance. A high school in Lexington, Kentucky delayed start times by an hour and says the average crash rate for teenaged drivers dropped by 16.5%. That’s why The American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement recommends schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Yet, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 14% of public high schools currently meet this guideline.

So what’s the downside to starting class early? I don’t see one. Do you? I guess it’s inconvenient for parents hoping to dump their kids off early so they can make it to work on time. Inevitably, when the topic of later school start times arises, parents worry about work conflicts. But really, is that something to base someone’s education on? Your work schedule?

“It’s one more example of how our schools need to be student centered,” Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of the National Center on Time & Learning and former U.S. Department of Education deputy assistant secretary says. “There are thousands of children, bus schedules, lunch schedules, parent needs. But we have to focus on how we are going to help our children succeed. And making sure they have enough sleep is one of those things.”

Image courtesy of ThinkStock

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