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Report: Later School Day Start Could Benefit Students

Education Secretary Says More Sleep Could Mean Better Academic Performance
FILE -- School buses idle in front of a school in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

FILE — School buses idle in front of a school in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A later start to the school day could help teenagers get the most from their classroom time and local districts should consider delaying the first bell, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday.

School districts would still be free to set their own start times, Duncan insisted in a broadcast interview, but he pointed to research that backs up his comments that rested students are ready students. Duncan said he would not be telling local school leaders when their first bells should ring and said it was up to local leaders to make the decisions on their own.

“There’s lots of research and common sense that lots of teens struggle to get up — to get on the bus,” said Duncan, the former chief of Chicago Public Schools.

Buses are a driving factor in when schools start their days, as are after-school jobs for teenagers, extracurricular activities and interscholastic sports. The challenge of transporting students to these activities — as well as classes — often is cited as a reason high school days begin at dawn and end mid-afternoon.

“So often, we design school systems that work for adults and not for kids,” Duncan said.

Research backs up Duncan’s worries about student sleep patterns and academic achievement.

“Children who sleep poorly are doing more poorly on academic performance,” said Joseph Buckhalt, a distinguished professor at Auburn University’s College of Education.

He has been tracking sleeping patterns of 250 children as well as their IQ tests, performance on standardized tests, their grades and behavior. His findings suggest sleep is just as important to student achievement as diet and exercise.

“All the data that we’ve seen on sleep shows that children, especially teenagers, are sleeping less,” he said. “If you don’t sleep well, you don’t think very well.”

Part of the lack of sleep is biological as teenagers go through puberty, he said. But afterschool programs such as sports or clubs, as well as increased pressure for students to perform well academically, keep them up later than is prudent. Add in caffeine, non-step social interactions through text messages and Facebook and sometimes less-than-ideal home environments, and students have steep challenges.

Students in New York told 1010 WINS reporter Carol D’Auria that they were behind the idea.

In some cases students felt that their after school schedules were preventing them from getting to sleep on time.

“I have to check Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Depending on how long you haven’t been on it can take 20 minutes, half hour”, Nora said.

Others said that they were rushed in the morning on their way to school.

“It will give more kids time for breakfast because most kids come to school without eating breakfast”, said Alex.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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