The value of a later start time

In a blog post on EdWeek from last Friday, contributing writer Marva Hinton wrote about several school districts around the country switching to a later start time for students in their schools.

On my Twitter, I said I related to this blog post, and thought it would be important to bring to light. In 2009 (when I was a sophomore in high school) our district decided to change our high school’s start time from 7:20 in the morning to 8:30. (Elementary schools had always started at this time, the times had been staggered for transportation purposes.)

The reason my school made the time change was due to safety concerns: many of the students walked to the bus stop, and in the winter months it was often below zero out and very dark. Administrators, after a fatal accident from a car striking students in a local district in the dark, decided a later start would be better for everyone.

The reasoning for the changes in these schools according to Hinton are based off the research the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released claiming a later start time would “align with the natural sleep rhythms of adolescents” (i.e., letting them sleep later).

The National Sleep Foundation had also published results from a poll they took in 2014 called “Sleep In America”. In the survey they noted several findings including:

  • 69 percent of parents believe sleep has an effect on their child’s performance in school
  • 25 percent of parents think their children get at least an hour less of sleep then they need on school nights

The NSF also paired their findings with a study published by doctors at the University of Minnesota which found later starting times at schools also had a correlation with

  • an improvement in attendance
  • increased daytime alertness
  • decreased student-reported depression

This movement has been noticed by the state government in Washington;  a Senate committee in the state has recently proposed a form of legislation called the Sandman Act which proposes a study on the academic achievement of the students in the later-starting schools.

The movement has also been noted nationally.

In 2015, the Atlantic covered a Center for Disease Control and Prevention movement to encourage schools to switch to a later start time. In “Why School Should Start Later in the Morning” by Emily Richmond, she talks about the AAP study as well as the UMinn study, where both have parallel findings that a later start time provided students with the opportunity to actually sleep the recommended amount of hours.

The CDC that year had issued a press release statement that called for action: 1 in 5 middle and high schools in the country started at their recommended 8:30 morning start. The federal government organization since their findings in the recent years have continued a push for a later start time in all schools.



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