Many School Starting Later; Should More Follow Suit?

When primary and secondary education students return to school in the coming weeks some may enjoy the opportunity to get a little more sleep.   Start School Later—a nonprofit which advocates for later start times—reports that schools in at least 19 states are currently planning to open the front doors a little later, this year.

According to Start School Later executive director, Terra Ziporyn, “Every year we see more and more schools delaying bell times to improve student sleep, health and learning. Not all of them will be starting middle and high schools at 8:30 or later, as health professionals recommend, but they are moving to schedules that are healthier and safer for many more students.”

This move, of course, has support from several studies that show consistent length of sleep has been positively correlated with higher academic outcomes, at least among secondary students.  The studies also take into account overwhelming homework load, busy extracurricular, and activity schedules all couples with earlier start times does negatively affect young students’ ability to learn.

In addition, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics, has learned that inadequate sleep can also increase the adolescent risk for being involved in car accidents, having depression or thoughts of suicide, and using drugs or alcohol. Also, their research suggests that inadequate sleep could also increase risk for things like cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, and obesity.

Of course, this research is not really anything new.  Many advocates—parents and organizations alike—have been pushing for later school start times for a while now. As a matter of fact, the CDC found and published, in 2015, that most secondary schools start to early in the morning.

In regards to later school start times, Start School Later communications director Stacy Simera notes, “There’s definitely an uptick.” She adds, “There has been exponential awareness. When the CDC issued their report, that was huge.”

Simera also goes on to say, “When we were first formed as a national nonprofit, we mostly heard from parents or professionals. Lots of our chapter leads are physicians or psychologists or social workers. But in the last year, we have heard from school administrators saying, ‘We’re hearing about this research. We know what should be done. Can you help us make that happen?’”

Apparently, this is probably just the beginning.

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