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Another View -- Joshua Jones: The case for starting school a little later

January 03. 2017 9:02PM

For many teens across the country, the school day starts earlier than 8:30 a.m. In fact, 75 percent of public schools start earlier than 8:30 a.m.

But recently, education policy makers have been urged to start middle and high school later in the morning. Portsmouth School Board took this step, and for good reason. Children and teenagers are not receiving the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of nightly rest, which can really affect their overall well being.

This idea of a later school start time could be pivotal to student success because it will improve the odds of adolescents getting more sleep so they can thrive better emotionally, physically and educationally.

There are significant risks that come with a lack of sleep such as “Higher rates of obesity, depression, motor vehicle accidents, and an overall lower quality of life,” according to Emily Richmond’s 2015 article in the Atlantic.

When researchers analyzed data from more than 9,000 students at eight high schools in Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming, they found that shifting the school day to start later in the morning had a significant change on the student body.

“The later school day resulted in a boost of attendance, test scores and grades in math, science, social studies and English. These schools also saw a decrease in tardiness, substance abuse and symptoms of depression,” Richmond wrote.

The fact that more sleep can result in higher test scores, as well as improve the emotional state of a student, is remarkable. I would think that most high schools would want to make the switch to give their kids the best future they can. They retain more information with a later school time and apply themselves more.

Lisa Lewis recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Teny M. Shapiro, an economist at Santa Clara University, estimates that a one-hour change produces the same benefit as shrinking class size by one-third, or replacing a teacher in the 50th percentile of effectiveness with one in the 84th percentile.”

This statistic shows that kids can utilize their brains to the best of their ability at a later school time. They can engage and learn more than they would if they were half awake.

“Adolescents’ ‘internal clocks’ — the circadian rhythms that control a human’s responses and determine sleep patterns — operate differently than those of other age groups,” Richmond continued.

The difference between teens’ sleep patterns and those of older people is that it is harder for adolescents to fall asleep earlier than it is for those of other age demographics. With homework stress, after-school and extracurricular activities, jobs and socializing, high school students are staying up later and waking up earlier, leaving them unprepared for school.

Many districts have become reluctant to change their schedules because they see the shift as too expensive and disruptive. Portmouth’s school budget would need $150,000 to make the change.

In the long run, a later start time could actually save schools money and benefit the society as a whole. Later school times not only boost school scores, grades and attendance, but also boost the emotional health and safety of the student, which is the most important thing we could gain from shifting school times to start later in the morning.

With school federal funding based off student performance, the $150,000 gap could be closed. Much research has been done surrounding this topic, and it is clear that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages by far. The emotional state of the students should be taken into account and a later school start time should not be seen as a burden, but as something that can benefit the students.

Joshua Jones is a senior, studying at Tilton School.

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