Establish 8:30 AM as Earliest Public High School Start Time

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Among Massachusetts students, especially High School students, many are faced with sleep deprivation due to early start times to the public school day. In 2014, Algonquin Regional High School reported that 52% of its students got 6 hours or less of sleep throughout a regular school week. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the needed amount of sleep for people aged 14-17 is 8-10 hours. 8-10 hours. Teenagers cannot simply solve this issue by going to bed earlier. Teens “circadian rhythm” (or internal sleep clock, so to speak) causes them to actually sleep and wake later naturally. By allowing early start times we are actually putting our students health at risk as well. Teenagers who do not get adequate sleep (8-10 hours), of which there are many (87% of high school students, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll), are more likely to engage in risky behavior (like experimenting with substances), and are more prone to mental illnesses like depression or similar conditions and symptoms such as anxiety. School districts in Massachusetts such as Nauset have reported positive results after establishing a later start time. The Cape Cod Times reported a 30% decrease in tardiness shortly after Nauset changed its start time in 2012. In addition to tardiness falling, across the first two months of the school year, there was a 53% drop in failing grades, while Ds and Fs fell 38%. In 2014, the Sharon High School Principal reported positive outcomes of an 8:05 AM start time to WGBH, and results similar to that of Nauset. Less students were late, and, according to him, more came ready to learn. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), early school start times are a cornerstone contributor to sleep deprivation among teens. The AAP states that an estimated 40% of schools have start times prior to 8:00 AM (2014).

Why 8:30 AM?

In August of 2014 the AAP, in a policy statement, recommended that all middle and high schools delay their start times to 8:30 AM. According to the AAP’s statement this will accommodate the sleep rhythms of adolescent students which can move significantly later in the night during puberty. A mandated start time of 8:30 AM or later would nearly ensure more sleep for students on average. Research conducted over three years at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement found that when Minneapolis Public School’s changed to a start time of 8:30 AM, the results were overwhelmingly positive. 60% of students reported getting 8 hours of sleep or more.

My Perspective 

As a current High School Student I find myself often concerned for my closest friends, who like many in our academically competitive state seek success and acknowledgment . Often I hear of how late my friends have stayed up to complete school work, or of how many all nighters have been pulled that week just to get by. At times it becomes unbearable for these students and they have to start taking days off, just to catch-up, or just to rest in bed. Massachusetts provides its youth with the best educational system anywhere in the country. Massachusetts can help it’s youth student population by working on legislation that would establish a public school high school start time no earlier than 8:30 AM. Logistical challenges may follow, but can we let them get in the way of the Massachusetts student’s health, academic success, and his/her future?