To the Editor:
Later school start times for high schoolers can only work if things are in place for students to actually get a later start (“What Time Should School Start? We Asked Teachers,” July 13, 2022). If my high-school-age daughter’s school were to start later, we would still have to get her there early to avoid traffic, and she would then still have to leave later at the end of the day. Only the students who live nearby could take advantage of a later start time.
However, cutting back on all the filler in public schools—which would require a lot more planning and thoughtfulness than changing the starting time—would probably have a more profound effect on sleep, stress, and student well-being than the superficial time change.
After my daughter’s half-year exchange in Vienna, Austria, last year, I realized that one of the biggest reasons American children are so exhausted is that they spend more time in school and on homework than is necessary to prepare them for college or life.
When my daughter did not have classes or when teachers were not there, she could just leave school. She had days where she left at around noon or earlier, and other days when she left in the evening. She and other classmates in exchange programs found that the students in Austria and Germany had less homework and spent less time in school than in the United States. Yet, their curriculum included learning two, sometimes three languages in addition to their native German instruction. Their courses also included ethics, psychology, economics, as well as history, geography, math, physics, chemistry, biology, music and arts, and physical education. Somehow, they were managing to do more with less time spent in school or on homework. They had a very different scheduling structure.
United States public schools should take note.
A version of this article appeared in the August 31, 2022 edition of Education Week as Schools Need to Cut Back on the ‘Filler’