Later Hours for School Sessions
It seems as if every politician running for office has made improving the minds of our students one of his or her top priorities. From newspaper headlines we read that our youth are not performing at the level desired, and even worse, some are being totally left behind. Television news shows lament high school dropout rates and low test scores. Experts gather to discuss the pros and cons of various teaching methods; textbooks are accepted or rejected on the basis of the depth and scope of material they provide. Yet in the push to find solutions for the gaps in our educational system, one problem is consistently glossed over or ignored altogether: our students are not getting enough sleep. This would make a great topic for an education major's research paper.
Today, the debate of later school starting times is heating up all across the country. Suddenly it is no longer just the teenagers campaigning for school hours that don’t involve rising before the birds; parents, teachers, and sleep experts have added their voices as well. Yet as the numbers for later starting times rises, so too, does the resistance of school boards all across the country.
School Sessions and Scheduling
One of the main sticking points for both those for and against later school starting times centers on scheduling. For the teenagers, the reasons given for starting school at a later time in the day involves the increased workload they bear as a result of increased pressures to succeed from school administrators and governmental agencies.
Reasons for later hours for school sessions:
- Longer sleep hours improve concentration
- Teens need more sleep
- Scheduling concerns
- Traffic elevation in metropolitan areas
- Longer hours for study
To understand where these adolescents are coming from, one needs only to plug into one of the many message boards for teens. For example, on the message board the following entries were logged by teenagers:
“I usually walk into first period twenty minutes late or not at all…and I’m barely ever awake during second”; “School boards and state officials just keep piling on the workload and if they keep it up we won’t even have time for sleep,”; “sometimes I get so tired at school, I feel as if I’m about to crash… my school starts at 7:00 and I have to get up at 4:20 am to catch my bus,”.
In another discussion forum hosted on a web site, the problem of too little sleep is given in greater detail by a student, “I get up at 5:30… my school starts at 7:30… volley ball practice from 3:30 to 6:30… get home around 7:00. On game days I wouldn’t get home till about 8 or 10… then eating and showering it is about 11 before I go to bed just to wake up and do it all over again. For me I have to really work on finding time to get my work done”.