Too many high schools and middle schools begin classes too early in the day, according to a report published by the federal Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC reports that during the 2011-12 school year, fewer than 1 in 5 middle and high schools across the United States began the school day at 8:30 a.m. or later, the start time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in a 2014 report. That time is considered the earliest possible in order to allow adolescents to get the 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep each night that health experts recommend.
For their report, published this month, researchers from the CDC and the U.S. Department of Education reviewed data on school start times from the Education Department’s 2011-12 Schools and Staffing Survey, the most recent data available. The survey includes nearly 40,000 public middle and high schools and schools with combined grades. On average, the report finds, schools nationwide start at 8:03 a.m.
The authors argue that school start times are important because insufficient sleep for adolescents has been linked to poor academic performance and to health risks such as being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and illegal drug use.
The researchers found that no schools in Hawaii, Mississippi, and Wyoming started at 8:30 a.m. or later. But in Alaska and North Dakota, more than 75 percent of schools started at that time or later. The earliest average start time was found in Louisiana, where classes began at 7:40 a.m. The latest was in Alaska, which had an 8:33 a.m. average start time.
A version of this article appeared in the August 26, 2015 edition of Education Week as High Schools Should Start Later, Report Says