Should High School Start Later?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday that teenagers are too tired in the morning and school should start later so that the kids are more alert.  There is a LOT of research that we’ve had for years that proves that the teen brain has a different sleep/wake cycle.  It shuts down later at night and becomes alert later in the morning.  Please keep in mind that the research shows the teen brain wakes around 9 am and shuts down around 11 pm.  Teens also need (even though neither they nor their parents believe this) close to 10 hours of sleep.  Don’t just believe me, read this.  You can also just type Teenage Brain into your search engine and you can read tons of information!

I agree that school needs to start later for teens.  BUT there are several major glitches with the idea.

1.) Bussing – It costs a lot of money to bus students and most school districts reduce the cost by bussing all students together.  This is especially necessary in districts where the kids live far from the schools.  It wouldn’t make good money sense to drive half empty busses TWICE through the countryside. Well actually, it would be four times because of the after-school routes.

2.) Day Length – Another important question is the length of the school day.  Many people are concerned that a later start means a later end time.  Later end times cuts into after-school jobs and sports.

For some people those are non-issues but, for the family that depends on their teen to earn extra money to help support the family, this is a major problem because of laws that restrict teens working during the school year.

For many teens, the problems with after-school sports practices and games would be a real issue.  My oldest son plays high school soccer and the practices already go until 6:30.  It’s difficult for the players to keep up with their school work and studies.

3.) Childcare – Many teens either care for their younger siblings or babysit after school.  Families rely on the childcare teens provide.  Who will be there to care for the younger kids if high school goes later?  Most of the little kids would be home alone.  When my teens were in grade school, I took in a neighborhood child for free because the parents left the child home alone for the hour or so between when the bus dropped off the little kids and the teens.

4.) Parent work schedule – Parents often wake their kids and get them moving before leaving for work.  Sometimes even dropping them off at school on their way to their own jobs.


My solution:  Year around school so that there are shorter school days for all age groups.  Keep in mind that kids that ride busses often have to get ON the bus at their homes an hour or more BEFORE school starts.   

This issue is not easy or cheap to solve.  It’s going to take entire communities to work this out.  It requires our whole country to change the way we think about educating children, work schedules, and how we live our lives.  The real question is:  What are you willing to do/give up to help children succeed?

Just think about how much more imagination time younger kids would have.  That teens would be more alert and focused on their school work. 

I would like to point out that we totally need to move toward the way colleges offer classes.  How often does a college student have back-to-back classes for five days in a row?  But they still manage to learn what they need to learn.  I’m not saying that the child’s brain is equal to the brain of an adult but we do this basically with grade school kids.  They have recess and PE and Music, Library, and Art classes mixed in with their core content classes.