Saturday, January 21, 2012
Start Later to Ensure Educational Progress
My high school begins at 7:10 a.m.
Yes, that is incredibly early.
When I was in high school, we started at 8:00 and let out about 3:15. When I first started teaching, the school started at 7:50. My second teaching job was at a school which began at 7:35. I thought that was as early as it could - or should - get. Then I moved to Colorado and discovered the school day began at 7:20. I was shocked, but I got used to it. Then several years ago, the recession led to serious budget crunches, and in a move to cut funds, but keep cuts out of the classroom, the district manipulated bus schedules to save cash ... and shifted the start time to 7:10. And, that, in my opinion, is just crazy. And nothing good comes from it. We let out at 2:50 everyday.
Nothing in education research supports earlier start times - especially for high school students. And, yet we persist. I would prefer and have even promoted an 8 - 4 schedule. In fact, I'd like to see an 8 or 9 to 4:30 or 5:00. And while people protest about the impact on sports and activities, I'd argue that we could and should move many practices to before school. Let the football team practice from 7:00 - 9:00, and then start school. That way, after kids are done at 4:30 or 5:00, they are literally "done." It would promote a return to home life and I truly believe ease a lot of pressure on kids.
In response to my rants about this at school, one of my seniors in Intro to College Comp, wrote a research paper on school start times, and then responded to my suggestions by creating a Facebook page devoted to later start times. So far, in a school over 3500 students, roughly 40 have actually joined the discussion. This is despite the overwhelming support among most students for later start times. It's tough to change the system.
I am so tired of school schedules being "driven" by bus schedules, sports, and child care concerns. Later start times make sense on every level. And there is little support for the alarms of high school kids going off at 5:00 in the morning.