In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement recommending that middle and high schools start classes after 8:30 a.m.
According to Department of Education data from the 2011-2012 school year analyzed by the CDC, only a small share of districts were doing so. About 17.7 percent of middle and high schools started after 8:30. The average start time was 8:03 a.m., with 75 to 100 percent of schools in 42 different states starting classes before 8:30 a.m.
Early start times like these cause teens to be severely sleep-deprived. The AAP recommends that teens get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night, but over 90 percent of of teens are chronically sleep-deprived, according to a 2014 report.
Sleep Deprivation Is Bad For Learning
A lack of sleep can have a devastating impact on kids’ futures. Sleep-deprived students are more likely to be overweight, anxious, depressed, have suicidal thoughts, perform poorly academically and engage in risky behaviors, according to the CDC.
Later school start times are proven to improve academic performance.
A 2012 study found that students who started school an hour later than usual saw their math scores on standardized tests increase an average 2.2 percentage points and reading scores increase an average 1.5 percentage points. They also watched less television, spent more time on homework and had fewer absences, the research found.
“Start times really do matter,” Finley Edwards, author of the study, told The Huffington Post in 2012. “We can see clear increases of academic performance from just starting school later.”
Snider, who has a Ph.D. in the history of medicine, first learned about this issue as a medical writer in the 1980s, but it started to hit home as she raised her three kids.
She learned that schools didn’t always start so early and that this type of sleep deprivation was a relatively new phenomenon.
“Nobody is going to tell you it’s good for kids’ health or safety or learning to start class at 7 in the morning,” Snider said.