Home > Math News Archive Detail

<< Prev 5/11/2008 Next >>

My Vote Is To Start At 9:20 A.M.......

Recent research has shown that the body clocks of most teenagers differ from adults and younger children. For example, teenagers have trouble getting to sleep until after 11 p.m. (when they produce melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone) and waking up prior to 8 a.m. (when they stop producing melatonin).

And what happens? A poll by the National Sleep Foundation has discovered that as many as 28% of these teenage students fall asleep in their first morning class. (I could find no data on the number of teachers who also fell asleep in their first morning class.)

So what to do? In 2002, a Kentucky school district decided to move the start time for their classes from 7:30 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. The result was increases in both attendance and scores on standardized exams.

Similar results have occurred in school districts in Virginia, Connecticut, and Minnesota. Some other side benefits are grade increases, decreases in behaviorial problems, and a decrease in the number of teenagers involved in car crashes.

This change seems like a no-brainer...so what are the barriers? School district administrators point to the increased cost of bus service (why?), conflict with after-school activities (the tail that wags every dog!), and inconvenience to teachers (why?), and coordination scheduling problems for parents (why?).

Source: Nancy Kalish's "The Early Bird Gets the Bad Grade," New York Times, January 14, 2008