Many high-schoolers have a difficult time with early-morning classes because of their inability to wake up. School districts should take notice of a study concluding that later start times could improve student performance.
When school opens this fall, there will be countless numbers of high schoolers struggling to drag themselves out of bed in the early morning.
Of course, some of that reluctance to rise is due to a summer of sleeping in, but it’s largely biological: Teens generally just don’t function well in the early morning hours, and a recent study has reinforced the theory.
You don’t have to convince frustrated parents who try, sometimes fruitlessly, to get their high schoolers out of bed. Or the teachers who see students with their heads face down on their desks in those early-morning classes.
The problem, according to Brown University’s researchers, is that teens are in their deepest sleep around the time they need to get up — dawn. That interrupted sleep can leave them foggy and cranky, and it’s compounded by their inability to get to sleep at a decent hour.
You can blame some of that difficulty on too much technology, like computers, phones and television, but those nocturnal tendencies come with age.
Researchers conducted a nine-week study at St. George’s School in Middletown, R.I., where starting times were shifted from 8 to 8:30 and class times were trimmed 5 to 10 minutes to keep dismissal time on track.
What transpired was pretty astounding. Almost 55 percent of students reported getting at least eight hours sleep, compared to 16 percent prior; first-period tardiness dropped in half; more kids ate breakfast; and students reported better outlooks.
And if you thought they missed out on the 5 or 10 minutes of lost instruction time, it wasn’t the case, said school administrators. Their heightened alertness improved their classroom performances.
The experiment went so well that school officials made the later start time permanent.
Such results should get the attention of school officials.
School officials typically haven’t been crazy about later start times because they envisioned such moves would mean later dismissals, which can make after-school activities such as sports — where even now students sometimes need early exits to travel for games — more difficult to manage. But if cutting class times doesn’t affect student performance and may indeed enhance it, there’s no need to alter when the school day ends.
Such a change could improve student performance and maybe even make moody, inattentive teens just a little less moody and inattentive.
Now, that is something both parents and teachers would love to see.
Messenger Post (Canandaigua, N.Y.)