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Students Plea, and Doctors Agree: Start School Later!

Amherst, NY (WBEN) - Could later high school start times provide a boost to students?

That's the question many have asked over the years, and it looks like we are getting some answers. A new study out of the University of Minnesota showed an increase in standardized testing scores, and a decrease in teenage automobile accidents in different districts where High School started later. 

Dr. Mary Carskadon director of Chronobiology and Sleep Research at Brown University. She knows how the plea to start school later sounds, but that doesn't change the science. "It's not just a behavior that teens manifest, which I think people assume 'oh they're lazy, they just want to sleep late,'" Carskadon said. "In fact, there's some biology behind that. As kids pass through adolescence, their rhythms show a pattern that's pushing later."

Ann Gallagher is an executive member of the organization Start School Later, which aims to change public schools' opinions of start time. "The medical literature, the AMA, the CDC, the World Health Organization clearly state that our teenagers need on average nine hours of sleep," Gallagher said. "With a school start time of 7:00 or 7:25 in the morning, and we know that the fall asleep time is between 10:00 and 11:00 at night, there is no way to get nine hours of sleep."

Both Carskadon and Gallagher say that the early start time of high schools interferes with this biological clock, causing students to suffer in their studies. 

Can starting school later improve student performance? The Minnesota study says yes, and in more ways than one. 

"In one of the districts (where school started later) they showed clear evidence of a reduction in automobile crashes in teenage drivers," Carskadon said. "In a couple of the districts they did show improvement in performance and standardized testing scores. So this is now adding to the growing amount of evidence that indeed the students will sleep more (if school started later), and it would have a significant impact."

But how later should school start? Carskadon says that even just one hour can make a big difference. "That hour is huge. That hour is five hours over the course of a week, 10 hours over two weeks, it adds up."

03/17/2014 1:17PM
Students Plea, and Doctors Agree: Start School Later!
Should high school start later?
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