Not Early to Bed, Not Likely to Rise
The New York Times ran an op-ed in yesterday’s edition describing the negative effects of increasingly earlier start times for students in secondary schools. Although a good deal of science and logic was presented over the course of the argument, the main point is thus:
[T]eenagers’ body clocks are set to a schedule that is different from that of younger children or adults. … The result is that the first class of the morning is often a waste,
with as many as 28 percent of students falling asleep, according to a
National Sleep Foundation poll. Some are so sleepy they don’t even show
up, contributing to failure and dropout rates.
Considering the state of the American education system, any bit of help goes a long way, and the circadian rhythms of the average American teenager cry out for relief every weekday from the grind of the early rise. Rested students perform better in class, are more competitive in athletics, and according to one district in Kentucky are involved in fewer early-morning automobile accidents.
According to the article, the National Sleep Foundation suggests that teenagers don’t reach their most functional state until after 8:00 a.m. However, only one major Missouri school district begins classes after this point. The Rockwood School District (which, in the interest of full disclosure, this author is an alumnus of) shifted its start time for high schools back to 8:28 A.M. at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year.
Could such a shift help disadvantaged schools in Missouri? If nothing else, the opportunity certainly seems to exist. St. Louis and Kansas City public high schools currently begin at 7:20, while the Wellston School District’s Eskridge High School starts classes at 7:45.
While such a shift will not cure everything that ails these districts, later classes could mean better attendance and more productivity from students. As I said before, every little bit counts.