- Cullman, Alabama

September 5, 2013

What time to start school?

The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Discussion of implementing a later start to the school day is not new. But the idea is resurfacing with some good points by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Duncan cites research that shows teens struggle to get up and get to school at the early times established by most schools. The reason for the struggle has nothing to do with teen rebellion or purposely staying up all night.

Teen brains actually have a different biology, which impacts sleep cycles and learning abilities, according to a study from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Education Improvement. The research concluded that schools that want students to arrive rested and ready to learn need to change their hours. Problems such as absenteeism, tardiness, depression, obesity, drop-out rates and even auto accidents decline when students get a good night’s sleep.

Duncan notes that school schedules have long been designed to fit the schedules of adults. And, of course, athletic programs play a big role in a lot of students’ schedules.

Based on those issues, it’s time school systems consider what’s really important — the health and performance of students.

Various critics have pointed out the academic shortcomings of American students for years. Granted a lot of different factors figure into school performance, but plentiful rest is important at every age.

Studies are showing that schools making adjustments to schedules are witnessing a turnaround in many students. Duncan said he is not suggesting that the government force schools to change schedules; that’s an area he believes should be a local decision.

Nonetheless, Duncan raises a point that deserves consideration among school board and administrators. If public education is for students, then the matter should be addressed.