Why is it important for middle- and high-school students to start school later in the morning?

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Trusted national organizations recommend later school start times for adolescents – students in middle school and high school.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state: 

Not getting enough sleep is common among high school students and is associated with several health risks including being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs, as well as poor academic performance. One of the reasons adolescents do not get enough sleep is early school start times. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concludes: 

It may be strongly argued that both the urgency and the magnitude of the problem of sleep loss in adolescents and the availability of an intervention that has the potential to have broad and immediate effects are highly compelling. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) says:  

While implementation may be complex … delaying school start times so that adolescents begin their instructional day later provides numerous benefits to the students and their broader community alike. 

According to the APA, the potential benefits of later start times are: 

  • Increased attendance rates 
  • Decrease in disciplinary action 
  • Decrease in student-involved car accidents 
  • Increase in student GPA 
  • Increase in state assessment scores 
  • Increase in college admissions test scores 
  • Increase in student attention 
  • Decrease in student sleeping during instruction 
  • Increase in quality of student-family interaction 

Meanwhile, the CDC points out that adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to: 

  • Be overweight. 
  • Not engage in daily physical activity. 
  • Suffer from symptoms of depression. 
  • Engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco, and using illicit drugs. 
  • Perform poorly in school. 

In summary, teenagers’ minds and bodies drive them to stay awake later in the night and sleep later in the morning whenever they have the opportunity. Elementary and intermediate students’ minds and bodies do not have the same requirements as teenagers, and they are more likely to go to sleep at an early hour. Therefore, they do not run the same risk of sleep deprivation as teens. Earlier start times are less likely to adversely affect elementary and intermediate students. The proposed schedule puts the intermediate schools at tier 1 and elementary schools at tiers 1, 2, and 3. The high school and middle schools are scheduled for later in the morning, in tiers 2 and 3.