Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pediatricians Call for Later Start Times in High School

The American Academy of Pediatrics has an idea about how to improve high schools - and it doesn't have anything to do with the Common Core or PARCC testing or drug and alcohol awareness. It has to do with alarm clocks. Most high schools simply start too early for high school students, and the pediatricians recommend high schools start no earlier than 8:30. Oh, what a dream that would be. The reason behind the doctors' prescription is the science hormones and sleep patterns. Teens generally need 8-9 hours of sleep per night, and because of hormones and natural sleep cycles, most teens have a hard time falling asleep until about 11 pm. For students who then need to catch a bus at 6:20 to be at school for 7:00 start times, the school schedules lead to sleep-deprived teens. The primary drivers behind early starts are bus schedules and child care - it's cheaper to use fewer buses and start earlier. And many families depend on the schools and older siblings for child care. Thus, it's an economic decision that is not made in the best interest of the students. For that reason alone, schools should make the decision to "let them sleep." In a more perfect world, high schools would start and 9:00 or 9:30 and go until 4:30 or 5:00. That would enable a full night's sleep for students most of the time. Sports practices and activities and clubs, as well as other academic support and office hours, could be scheduled in the early morning before classes. That would limit most sports practices to a reasonable two-hour limit. And when school let out in the late afternoon, the students would be free. It makes a lot of sense, and works in numerous high schools with later start times.

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