Why School Start Times Play a Huge Role in Kids’ Success

By Rebecca Klein for The Huffington Post

tired student girl with glasses sleeping on books in library

Around the country, more school districts are moving to delay their start times. Here’s why: Teens currently aren’t getting enough sleep. And this lack of sleep is having a detrimental effect on their grades and mental health.

Terra Ziporyn Snider, co-founder of the nonprofit Start School Later, has been documenting this problem and advocating changes to fix it since 2011. She started the organization after posting an online petition asking authorities to establish 8 a.m. as the earliest allowable school start time. Within a month, she’d received nearly 2,000 signatures from all over the country. Now, there are close to 75 local chapters of Start School Later, all educating communities about the importance of making school hours compatible with teens’ sleep needs.

“I think educated public opinion is very much in favor of this. Even a vast majority of people who know anything about the issue, if they’ve done any homework or read about it, are for later start times, in theory,” said Snider. “When it comes to specific changes in their school system, there’s much more debate.”

A range of small and large school districts in at least 44 states have taken steps to push back school start times in order to maximize students’ sleep time. In April, Maryland passed a bill incentivizing schools to delay school start times, and New Jersey lawmakers are currently studying the issue.

Here’s why Snider, pediatricians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention think more districts and states should follow suit.

Most Schools Start Really Early

In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement recommending that middle and high schools start classes after 8:30 a.m.

According to Department of Education data from the 2011-2012 school year analyzed by the CDC, only a small share of districts were doing so. About 17.7 percent of middle and high schools started after 8:30. The average start time was 8:03 a.m., with 75 to 100 percent of schools in 42 different states starting classes before 8:30 a.m.

Early start times like these cause teens to be severely sleep-deprived. The AAP recommends that teens get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night, but over 90 percent of teens are chronically sleep deprived, according to a 2014 report.

Read more here.

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