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Jesse Venable

Ms. Gilliland
English 102
April 18, 2016
The Effect of School Start Times on Adolescents and the Solutions Thereof
In the ever changing field of American public education, a particular
trend has garnered much scrutiny in recent times as it is on the forefront of
education debate. This trend is the shifting of school start times and how
it has begun to affect students. Changing school logistics are making it
difficult for students to maintain health standards for their age and
schools should be doing something about this. In this essay I will look
into the ways start times have changed, discuss the ill-effects thereof,
and ultimately discuss what is and can be done to fix this problem.
Over time, it has been found that high schools in America have undeniably moved
towards starting earlier. In a study by Amy Wolfson, a forefront researcher of this topic, studies
on school start times ranging from 1975 to 1996 were all compared and analyzed in a pilot study
for the larger study and Wolfson and her colleagues published. Here they found that schools that
previously started early had only begun to start earlier as the years have gone by, however
schools that have always started later have generally maintained a start time of 8:00 a.m. or
higher. (Wolfson 49) Another comparison of surveys in the same publication showed that

school start times have moved back even further since the early 2000s, clustering around
8:00 a.m. and more schools starting earlier than that average as opposed to later. Research
and historical analysis shows that this is a trend that occurred as a consequence of the
logistics of the time. When analyzing why this might be, most researchers agree that pushing
back school start times started in the 1970s as a response to the various concerns of the time such
as money and the political landscape. These factors were addressed by school districts in the
form of closing many smaller schools and directing students into larger feeder schools in
which the district could save money. As can be observed, the past few decades have seen the
gradual advent of the early school start time, however this rate has slowed down. Current school
start times have stagnated around 8:03 a.m. on average according to a 2011-12 report issued by
the CDC.
Despite the CDC reporting 8:03 as the national average school start time, which
factors in elementary and middle schools, and SASS reporting 7:59 as the national average in
2014 for high schools alone, the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) recommends that no
high school or middle school begin before 8:30 a.m. This is because studies have continually
revealed a plethora of negative effects early start times invoke on students. Teenagers attending
high school are experiencing the biological effects of adolescence in that their circadian rhythms
make it difficult to keep in line with the demands of an early school start time. Emily Richmond
writes in response to the CDC and AAPs announcements in an article published in The Atlantic
in which she looks at a variety of studies on the issue that the CDC and AAP use in their
statement. Richmond finds that students face the ill effects of sleep depravity head on in their
morning classes, and less than half of those students averaged even 7 hours of sleep, a number
that doesnt even reach the advised amount of sleep for adolescents. This is because the students

are defying their biological clocks, and in the words of one of the studies, the students are
pathologically sleepy. (Richmond) Later start times are thought to improve adolescent sleep
by reducing the mismatch between the developmental biological drive toward later bedtimes and
wake times and externally imposed school schedules. (Paksarian 1351) This lack of sleep paves
the way for a host of issues that cause students to more likely, [be] overweight; not engage in
daily physical activity; suffer from depressive symptoms; engage in unhealthy risk behaviors
such as drinking, smoking tobacco, and using illicit drugs; and perform poorly in school.
(Wheaton 809)
For these reasons, start times in schools must be changed to better benefit the students.
School systems cannot continue to justify the toxic effects of this sleep depravity with questions
of logistics and money. Schools across the country have responded to the CDC and AAP by
changing their start times to a more reasonable beginning of the day and have seen the myriad of
benefits for the students. In another study lead by Wolfson, schools that took the step to push
their start times forward and observe the effects of doing so reported nothing but positive results.
Students were found to have received more sleep, much less drowsiness in class, less behavior
problems, and a general increase in attendance. (Wolfson 207) In addition to an increase found in
students in-school performance, the later school start times also brought about a significant
decrease in car crashes involving adolescents, despite an increase in population. This is clearly
because teenage drivers are much more alert and less drowsy on their way to and from school.
(Danner 535)