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Does the school day start too early?

A new study suggests high school students would learn more if their day started later. Caption: Wikimedia Commons A new study suggests high school students would learn more if their day started later.
Caption: Wikimedia Commons

As thousands of high schoolers get ready to head back to class, health experts say it may be time to push back the start of first period.

While the medium start time of the school day is 8 a.m. around the country, New York City is among the school districts around the country that are pushing the start of the day up. The Atlantic reports that some schools are ringing the opening bell as early as 7:20 a.m.

Parents and students (especially those with lengthy commutes) have long complained about the effects of an early start time. And it now looks like they have medical research to back that opinion up. TheAmerican Academy of Pediatrics recently released a policy statement noting that “insufficient sleep in adolescents [is] an important public health issue that significantly affects the health and safety, as well as the academic success, of our nation’s middle and high school students.”

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To combat the lack of sleep among America's youth, the Academy says the school day should start no earlier than 8:30. "However, individual school districts also need to take average commuting times and other exigencies into account in setting a start time that allows for adequate sleep opportunity for students,” the Academy's statement noted.

In recent years a handful of school districts have pushed back their start times by an hour. The researchers found that those students vastly improved their performance and experienced“less daytime sleepiness, less tardiness, fewer attention/concentration difficulties, and better academic performance compared with middle school students at earlier-starting schools.”

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

 
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