School starting later for some high school students sophomores Kendra Mitchell, second left, and Katie Benmar, sit with other first-period students in a geography class at Roosevelt High School in Seattle. The Seattle school board voted last month to adopt an 8:45 a.m. start time beginning next year for all of its high schools and most of its middle schools, joining about 70 districts across the nation who adopted a later start time in recent years. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
School starting later for some high school students
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More school districts around the U.S. are heeding the advice of scientists who have long said that expecting teens to show up to class before 8 a.m. isn't good for their health.  Or for students' report cards.
 
The Seattle school board voted to adopt an 8:45 a.m. start time beginning next year for all of its high schools and most of its middle schools.  Seattle joins 70 districts across the nation. The districts have adopted a later start time in recent years.
 
The movement still has a long way to go. There are more than 24,000 U.S. high schools and supporters expect that such decisions will be made more quickly now that people have mostly stopped debating the underlying science.
 
Proponents of later start times got a boost last year. That's when the American Academy of Pediatrics said that while starting later isn't a panacea for teen health and academic problems, it can improve students' lives in many other ways.
 
"Essentially, across the board, any domain that you look at improves pretty dramatically," said Dr. Judy Owens of Boston Children's Hospital.  She is author of the academy's policy statement on teen sleep. After the report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also pushed for later bell times.
 
Research studies have shown later start times help combat sleep deprivation in teens.  They naturally fall asleep later than their parents would like.  And later start times could improve academic success, attendance, mental health and cut sleep-related car accidents.
 
"We're going to look back on this time period and wonder why it took so long," said Phyllis Payne of Start School Later.  The organization helps parents groups advocate for later bell times. She said 49 new local groups have started in the last three years.
 
The obstacles to change are mostly financial. St. Paul, Minnesota, public schools delayed the adoption of later start times for all its high school students, even after seeing great results in a one-school pilot.  That is because of transportation issues.
 
The district could not overcome parent complaints about earlier start times for elementary students.  Those times were made necessary because of the new later times for high school students. It would cost St. Paul about $8 million to add more buses, explained Jackie Statum Allen.  She is assistant director for strategic planning and policy.
 
"It would be much better to put that in the classroom rather than the gas tank," Allen said.
 
In Seattle, officials encountered the same resistance. Some parents of younger children objected when bus schedules were flipped. Their kids were put on an earlier schedule for next year. Some parents argued that later start times will get in the way of after-school activities.
 
The Seattle change was approved in part because the district listened to parent feedback on an initial proposal.  That made the final plan more expensive but also more popular, said Cindy Jatul.  She is a Seattle teacher and parent and a volunteer with Start School Later Seattle.
 
An effort to move school start times in Chicago failed when the district tried to make the change without community input. "It backfired terribly," said Jatul, who got involved in the effort in Seattle when her kids hit puberty.  As a teacher, she was facing groggy teens at home and at school.
 
Bridget Shelton is a freshman at Seattle's Roosevelt High School.  She believes the change in bell times will help her move from getting 6-7 hours of sleep to closer to 8 hours next year.
 
"I know many students that come in and are just struggling to stay awake," she said. "Many of my friends are falling asleep in class."
 
Katie Benmar, a sophomore, doesn't think the new start time will make anything better. She expects her life will just shift one hour later, from after-school activities to dinner to homework and bed.
 
"I'm going to bed at midnight and waking up at six," Benmar said of her current schedule.  It includes jazz choir after school. "I'm really tired right now."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does a later start improve student performance?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (336)
  • kassandraa-wil
    1/13/2016 - 12:13 p.m.

    A later start improves students performances because giving them an extra hour helps them get more sleep, which will help them miss less often , and will help them for grades.

  • jesusp2-wil
    1/13/2016 - 12:20 p.m.

    I believe that everyone should get more time to sleep and enter school a little later so that at work or school the workers and students could not feel tired or lazy when they are assigned to work on something.

  • citlallym-wil
    1/13/2016 - 01:28 p.m.

    A later start time will help improve students performance because it will let them have more time to get ready and be more wide awake. It would actually give us more energy to come to school. We won't be late anymore.

  • ashleym4-wil
    1/13/2016 - 02:27 p.m.

    Most districts across the nation have took in the advice they have received from scientists stating that expecting students to show up to school before 8 a.m. isnt good for there health. Although some students think the later time start wont make any difference but just interfere with their after school activites. Which will involve do after school activities, homework, dinner, and going to bed. It will only make matters worst.

  • ethang1-wil
    1/13/2016 - 04:24 p.m.

    This article is about schools having later school times. The debate about if it actually helps students or effects them. In my opinion I think that it could help because it gives the Students to get more rest. But there are some kids who have after school activities so this gives them less time to sleep basically.

  • daphner-wil
    1/13/2016 - 07:43 p.m.

    It improves it because u are more awake. You are also more focused in your school work. You as well come more prepared and ready to start the day awake and with enough rest.To be more focused on school. That's my opinion on why it improves it.

  • johnnym2-wil
    1/13/2016 - 09:28 p.m.

    It allows students to get more sleep.It will get the students to be more awake instead of being tired.More students can participate in class activities and can improve a students overall grade for actually focusing on the work instead of being tired and sleepy.

  • sandras-wil
    1/13/2016 - 09:39 p.m.

    This article is about how making the starting time of school later could affect the students. In the article it claims that in Seattle many schools have adapted a new starting time. Schools are starting later because waking up early is affecting student health and their performance in school. I feel like the current starting time for school should be delayed and start later.

  • arianam1-wil
    1/13/2016 - 10:16 p.m.

    This article is about the school districts wanting to change the time of when school starts which is at 8:00.The article states that the Seattle school board voted to adopt an 8:45 a.m start time beginning next year for all the high schools & most middle schools.In my opinion this is a great idea it gives kids extra time to sleep which will make them have more energy.

  • sheilah-6-bar
    1/14/2016 - 10:06 p.m.

    When school starts at a later time students get more sleep. It says in the article, "Research studies have shown later start times help combat sleep deprivation in teens. They naturally fall asleep later than their parents would like. And later start times could improve academic success, attendance, mental health and cut sleep-related car accidents." Students usually go to sleep later making them tired in the morning. When they have a later time to start school they will get more sleep. I like this article because it defines what students want. Students that I know would like school to start later so that they can sleep longer.

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