Sunday, April 18, 2021

Does A Later Start Time Really Help Students?

For years I've read that a later school start time would be better for students, especially high school students.  Why do these articles never mention putting the darned phones away at bedtime, or what time schools start in China, or Korea, or Singapore, or Finland, or Germany, all of which are supposed to have better performing students than we do, and neither do such articles mention if those foreign students have the same sleep issues American students seem to.  It's enough to make you wonder:

Starting school later in the morning allows adolescents and teens to get the sleep they need to perform well in the classroom and maintain overall health, a study published Thursday by the journal Sleep found.

By pushing the school day back an hour, high school students obtained an extra four hours or so of sleep per week, the data showed.

More than 10% of students in grades 9 through 12 surveyed as part of the study reported they slept better, and about 20% indicated they experienced less daytime sleepiness, or feeling the need for sleep during the school day, the researchers said...

"Families need to recognize that sacrificing sleep means sacrificing physical and mental health, as well as performance, both academic and athletic."

Before school shut down last year, my school started at 8:05 each morning.  Once we shut down due to the 'rona, classes didn't start until 9 am.  I didn't notice kids any more awake and attentive in class.

I used to survey my students, mostly seniors, about school starting at 8:30.  They would almost unanimously say that if school started at 8:30, they'd take "0 period", with a starting time of about 7:30.  Why?  So they'd have their afternoons free.  They would rather start earlier than later.  I always found that interesting, because every single article you'll ever read about later start times tells you how much better it would be for kids.  

Several years ago a parent group tried to get our school, and only our school, to switch to a later start time.  They tried to convince us that athletes wouldn't miss even more afternoon class time by doing so.  We didn't buy it--and I even can't tell you how many hours of class are missed a week by athletes now.


Ellen K said...

In listening to conversations-something art teachers can do easily-I would hear about students staying up playing games all night, sneaking out to parties and texting until the wee hours of the morning. Evidently there's little adult supervision in these homes (or more likely, the parents are just as bad-I've seen people get on their cell phones at funerals.) But even the seniors who had first period off due to Senior Out would show up barely awake and often late even though their "school day" wasn't starting until nearly 10 AM. When parents were confronted by students absence failing due to not showing up, they would be outraged and make all kinds of accusations. But here's the real question-if you don't trust your 17 year old to toddle down the road for a free high school class, how much do you trust them to show up at a college five hundred miles away for an 8:00 AM lab or a 7:30 PM Calculus course rather than sleeping in or partying on?

PeggyU said...

Our daughter used to wake up at 5:30 every weekday morning to go to swim practice. I would drive her there and sleep in the car while she worked out. Her youngest brother committed himself to five years of debate competition. The tournaments required them to be there by 7:30 am. Competitions ran into the evening, and students were also required to assist with cleaning. So I know it can be done.

Auntie Ann said...

I had insomnia as a teen. It wasn't until a NYTimes article about 15 years ago that I realized it is actually quite common. I would be in bed by around 10:30, and try desperately to get to sleep. I would usually finally succeed at around 1:30. Early morning sports practice nearly killed me. I was running on about 4-5 hours a sleep a night, with major crashing on the weekends when I slept until noon. It never crossed my mind that this wasn't normal, or that maybe I should get help with it. It got so bad that I went to the eye doctor because my vision was so blurry I could barely see the board in class: he said I was just tired.

Today, I wish I hadn't wasted 3 hours every night trying to go to sleep. I should have used that time more productively...but I was too tired to!

Ellen K said...

My kids' high school started at 7:30 AM. The two kids in band had to be at marching band practice, on the field with their instruments, by 6:30 AM. I had to be at work at the library in a neighboring high school at 7:00 AM. I remember a blur of four years where I woke up at 5:00 AM, got dressed, fixed breakfast and tore out the door leaving my husband to feed the dog and make sure the house wasn't left wide open. I would get home around 3:00 PM, my kids would have homework and often other club meetings to attend. School is exhausting for kids and parents. But my kids showed up on time and so did I. We may not have been awake or wearing matching socks, but by God we were THERE.

Anonymous said...

I am familiar with two HSs with zero hour classes, and in both schools, those classes were popular with the more-academically-serious kids. That was reflected in the classes offered; AP calc but not remedial math, etc. One of my kids was a serious swimmer, whose alarm rang at 0400 M-F (practice 0430, with a 25” commute - via mom, whose alarm rang at 0330 😇; to make 4 lunches and two portable breakfasts), who chose to do that more than required (plus required practice 1530-1830 M-F) - come home, eat, do any homework not done at lunch, and early bed. Another commonly drove 30+ minutes, on weekends, for 0600 practices. I also lived, for many years, in an area where many kids had farm/ranch chores before school (often a long distance away) or had early hockey practices. In addition, I have worked with young military men and women. All managed to be functional in early mornings - as has been the norm for most of history, all over the world. However, that was before 24-hour cable (we didn’t have), videos, and social media (after my kids’ time) - which present temptations.

However, many adult jobs - including lucrative professional ones - require early mornings, so kids need to face that reality. Hospital nursing and other clinical shifts often start at 0700, it’s common for surgeons to be making hospital rounds by 0600-0630 (to be ready for 0800 surgery), and two of my immediate family still put in 16+ hour days, on a frequent basis; often with zero-dark-hundred airport arrivals - as is common in the finance world.