Exhausted teenagers may soon see their dreams come true at a later morning hour. The school start time debate has shifted as proponents of later school start times now have greater scientific evidence to back up their claims. In August of this year, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommended that middle and high schools delay start times until at least 8:30am or later. This recommendation comes after numerous studies have shown that the biological rhythm of adolescents changes to cause them to go to bed and wake up later than children and adults. Thus, the first few hours of instructional time may be wasted if students aren’t fully awake to learn their lessons.
Additional studies have shown that sleep deprivation in teens can lead to obesity, depression, lower standardized test scores and increased risk of automobile accidents. Many opponents to the change have raised concerns about altering school start times. These concerns stem from the potential ripple effects on scheduling, school and work commutes, school budget concerns, and morning and afternoon sports practices. However, in her op-ed piece for CNN, Terra Ziporyn Snider argues that communities would adjust to school schedule changes instead of seeing a dramatic negative impact broadly. Schools that have already implemented the change around the US, Canada and the UK have already seen improvements in student’s health and academic performance.
Several bills are moving through state legislation around the country to research and implement the benefits of later school start times. Many Texas districts, including HISD, have considered starting later as a means of combatting drastic budget cuts and decreases in state funding. Considerations of later start times could potentially save costs by making school bus operations more efficient.