Follow us:

Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

September 17, 2013 at 6:01 AM

Here’s a school improvement idea: Let teens sleep in

Mercer Island School District changed high school start times to 8 a.m. from 7:20 a.m. after research on teen sleep patterns showed later is better. Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times

Mercer Island School District changed high school start times to 8 a.m. from 7:20 a.m. after research on teen sleep patterns showed later is better.
Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times

A sign that fall is growing near is that it’s staying dark longer in the mornings. Driving recently to meet teachers and students, I felt renewed sympathy for the teenagers I passed trudging half-asleep to their bus stop. Some walk to school.

The BBC, citing Oxford University experts, says half of all British teenagers are sleep-deprived. A similar narrative fits American teens.

Research suggests teenagers need nine hours of sleep to function the next day. But natural hormone changes and
technology such as social media and texting means only about 8 percent of them are getting it, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Start School Later Inc., bills itself as a national coalition of “health professionals, sleep scientists, educators, parents, students, and other concerned citizens” who believe better school hours could improve student health, safety,  equity and learning.  The group says starting high school classes at 9 or 9:30 a.m. would help students stay awake, improve memory consolidation and reduce absenteeism and tardies. Ongoing petitions in school districts around the country are here.

It is a tough call. Changing school start times can impact bus transportation along the elementary, middle and high school continuum. After-school activity schedules would be pushed later as well. There would be challenges as well for teens who work.

But an informal KING 5 poll showed a  majority of parents, 53 percent, support later start times. But 44 percent of the 943 respondents said kids should simply go to bed earlier.  In that same KING story, the Seattle Public Schools promised to survey parents district-wide to gauge interest in adjusting school start times for the 2014-2015 school year. And the  Washington state PTA passed a resolution last year supporting healthy school start times. The quote below sums up this issue for me.

“Given that the primary focus of education is to maximize human potential, then a new task before us is to ensure that the conditions in which learning takes place address the very biology of our learners,” says Mary A. Carskadon, director of E.P. Bradley Hospital Research Laboratory and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University School of Medicine.

Comments

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►