Eassy on high school starting time, we the theses , we need to give


it is the rare student who doesn’t find it diffcult to get out of bed in the morning. Recent high school grad Jeff Varley strategically directs the following essay proposing later high school starting times to an audience of his peers-fellow later risers–while also offering sound evidence to sway adult readers who make school-scheduing decisions. Verley even shows how taxpayers in community where high school students live u,would benefit from later strating times no one can accuse him ignoring the greater goodl With an attention’ getting introduction, an alarmingly long list of the problems caused by sleepiness among high school students, and a solution that’s un’ cxpectcdll, simprlc–and c/cn accounts fbr the sevcral obstacles that might stand in its way-Varlcy’s proposal is unlikcly to put you to sleep, wether you’re an early bird or not. 

Ah, sweet memories of high school: waking up at 6:30 in the morning, stumbling into the bathroom to get ready for the day, dressing while still half asleep, rnunching a piece of toast while listening to our parents tell us that if we just went to bed earlier we wouldn’t be so sleepy in the morning (or worse, listening to our parents call us lazy), catching the bus as the sun began to top the trees, and wandering into our 6rst-period classes me rely to lay our head down on our desks to dose of1 for the next fifty,-five minutes. 

We could never seem to catch up on our sleep, especially during the week. And even if we followed our parents’ advice and tried going to bed earlier, the earlier bedtime did not make much, if any, difference in how awake we were the next morning. In”fact, for those of us who tried going to bed earlier, we generally just lay there until l0:30 or I l:00 before finally going to sleep. The next school morning, we were still as tire d as when we had gone to bed later. 


Yet recent studies provide evidence that the sleep patter’s for  adolescents are significantly different from  those of both young children and adults. Studies. of sleep parterns by Mary Carskadon professor.of psychiatry and human behavior at the Br.own University School of medicine and director of sleep and chronobiology Research at E P’ Bradley Hospital in East providence , Rhode island revealed that adolescents as opposed to younger children or adults, actually function’ better when they go to ‘
bed later and awake later. Professor: carskadon’s research demonstrates that most adolescents,biological clocks are naturally set to a different patrern from, the clocks of most children and adults. 

     The timing of the need for sleep also shows biological changes as children reach puberty,  Mclatoin, a hormone produce the pineal gland. is a indicator for the biological clock that infuences wake/Sleep cycles. carcefully controlled studies found that ..”more mature adolescents had a later timing of the termination  of melatorin secretion” (carskadon 351). This indicates that post-pubescent, teen have a biological need to sleep later in the morning. The impact of- forcing people to try be alert when every nerve in their body is 

begging for more sleep, can only be lcgari,’,c.this discovery has a major impact on high school student who are required to wake up erarly in order to arrive at school
early, for asking teens to learn a complex subject, such as math, science, or English-, before the brain is awake is  . 


    Tardiness, poor grades, depression, automobile accidents, after, school on-the-job accidents, and  general lethargy have all been litftied as the consequences of insufficient sleep among high school students. Yet school districts persist in retaining high school strarting times that begin early in The morning usally around, 7:30 a.m. but such an early starting time does not benefit the students for whom the educational system is supposedly structured. How do we reslove the conflict of early high school starting times versus sleeping student?; 

     An obvious solution would be to start high school class later in the morning. A later starting time for high  schools can be a contro- versial proposal if all of the affected parties are not consulted and kept informed Kyla wahlstrom of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the university of Minnesota pointed out that ‘”changing a school’s starting time provokes the same kind of emotional reaction from stakeholders as closing a school or changing a school’s attendance area” (wahlstrom 346). presumably.

  I24 Proposing a solution


if parents and other interested parries knew about Carskadon’s research, they would be more willing to consider changing the start time for high school. 

       Some schools have recognized the benefits of later: starling times and have implemented a new schedule . One such school is located in eastern Minnesota. In 1996, the Edina Public School District pushed back the start time for I ,400 high school students from 7 ‘.25 to 8 :30 am Edina Public School District Superintendent Kenneth Dragseth reports that the later schedule has led to better grades, fewer behaioral problems, and a better’rested student body (Dragseth). Dragseth’s anecdotal evidence that better-rested students perform better is supported by research performed by psychologists at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Working with Carskadon, the psychologists “surveyed more than 3,I20 Providence (Rhode Island] area high school students and found students who got A’s and B’s averaged about 35 minutes more sleep on both weeknights and weekends than students who received D’s’s and F’s” 

(Bettelheim 557).
In addition to better grades, other positive effects cited by researchers include better attendance, fewer tardies, far fewer students falling asleep at their desks, more alert students more engaged in the learning process, less depression, fewer problems at home and among friends, enhanced school atmosphere, and fewer illnesses (Lawton; Wahlstrom and Taylor). With so many benefits to starting high school classes later, why haven’t more districts done sol 

One of the most common concerns comes from participants in extracurricular activities. If practices currently often run until 8 or 9 p nr. with a school day that begins at7:30 a.m”, what will happer-r if school starts an hour later. This is a legitimate concern that would need to be addressed on a team-by-team or group-by-group basis” Some practice sessions could be held immediately after class in the early afternoon. Some activities could convene after a short dinner break. If these activities began earlier in the evening, they could be finished sooner in the evening. The one factor every coach or sponsor would have to consider is how important any extracurricular activity is in relation to the primary mission of the school, which, of course is learning and education, not sports or clubs. 

Availability of buses is another concern for many school districts when any discussion of changing schedules begins. School officials in Montgomery Country, Maryland, estimate it would cost $31 million to 

buy enough buses to accommodate later start times fbr high school without inconveniencing elementary and middle school students (Bettelheirn 557). minneapolis, which buses 90 percent of the 50,000 students in the school district solved the transportation’ problems caused by starring high school classes later by starting the grade school classes earlier (Lawton). This has the added benefits of brining younger children to school at a time when many .of the are most alert and decreasing the need for before-school child care for these students (Reiss; Lawton). With careful planning and scheduling, the transportation tribulations can be addressed in cost-effective ways.
  As the world we live in becomes ever more complex, education becomes increasingly important. It is important that the time spent on education be spent as effectively as possible. ]ames Maas, a psy- 

chologist at Cornell University, points out that ,.people are’begining to realize it doesn’t make sense to pay heavy school taxes when the audience you’re teaching is assleep” (qtd. in Bettetheim 556). it is time to consider school schedules that provide the best education at times that are most appropriate to the students. 


Ilettelheim, Adriel. “Slcep Deprivarion.” ()ellesearcher g.24 ( l99g): SSS 62 Print. 

carskadon, N{ary A’ “when worrds coilidc: Adolesccnt Nccci ftrr sreep vcr, sus socieral Dema.ds.” pbi Detta lb.ppan Jan. 1999: 34g.-53. Irri’r, 

Dragsedr, l(e’neth A. “A Minneapolis subuib Rcaps Frarrv Bc’e6ts fr-onr a [,atc stitrt.” school Advnini.strator. Arner-ica’ Assciciari’rr of scho.l Acl.rinis_ trators) Mar. 1999. Web. 22 Mar. 2003. 

I-awton, Nlillicent. “Forwhonr thc Bell rolls.,, School Adyninistratot, Amcricir. Association of school Adrninistrators, Mar. 1999 wcb. 22 Mat. 200J. 

Reiss, llmrny. “Wakc-up Call o’ i(cls’ Biological Clocks.,, NEA T.od.ay 6 6 (1998): 19. Print. 

Wahlstrom, Kyla L “The Prickll, Poliucs of School Starting l.imcs ‘, pht Dtlta Iiappan8O ( t999): 345. 47 print. 

wahlstrom, Kyla I-., and John s. Tayror. ‘.Sleep Research