Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Mercury News: A later start for high school

San Jose Mercury News

First Published Aug 28 2014 11:35 am • Last Updated Aug 28 2014 05:19 pm

Anyone with teenagers knows how hard it is to get them up by 6 or 7 a.m. for school. Imagine how hard it is for teachers to educate them before 8 a.m., when nearly half of California high schools start the day.

The American Academy of Pediatricians declared last week that chronic sleep deprivation is a public health issue and called on middle and high schools to push back their start times to 8:30 or later. It’s an idea many parents have supported for years, and it’s time to take it seriously.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Oh, the naysayers preach that rising at the crack of dawn was good enough for them. Kids today just need to suck it up.

But America is struggling to catch up on education with other nations and to close the achievement gap among races in our own. It’s crazy to debate education theory and ignore physiological evidence that sleep deprivation in teenagers is rampant. Of course it affects their ability to learn.

Nearly a third of high school students say they fall asleep in school at least once a week. Nearly nine in 10 get less than the recommended 8.5 hours of sleep a night, and nearly a fifth fall asleep doing their homework. Students who are consistently sleep deprived get lower grades and more frequently skip classes or drop out.

A persuasive 2011 study by economists for the Brookings Institute’s Hancock Project showed that students at schools that start high school at 9 a.m. could expect an improvement in learning that would lead to $17,500 in increased lifetime earnings. Significantly, it also found "Early school start times reduce performance among disadvantaged students by an amount equivalent to having a highly ineffective teacher."

The roadblocks to starting classes later are well-known. It would require starting elementary school days earlier because of bus schedules. But pediatricians say younger children’s biological clocks are different — as every parent already knows. Elementary students can handle the early starts.

Then there’s after-school sports. If school starts later, there’s less daylight afterward for practice.

Really? California would sacrifice academic achievement and kids’ overall health so their coaches can get two hours of practice out of them before dark? How about the vast majority of students who would benefit from having less time unsupervised before their parents get off work?

School schedules are extremely complex, and this change is a logistical nightmare. But let’s start working on how to do it. If a few schools figure it out, others will follow.

story continues below
story continues below

Teachers are revolutionizing instruction by adopting the more rigorous and complex Common Core standards. Administrators need to work on changing the school day. Together they could dramatically improve kids’ understanding of complex concepts they need to know.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.