Should High Schools Have a Later Start Time?

Studies show that student attendance, grades, and test scores rise with later start times. However, schedules and after school activities may suffer.


Photo Courtesy of Bloomberg News

  Beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, Wyoming’s  Aspen Valley High School (AVHS) officially changed their starting times. The change was from 7:30 to 8:55, a 75 minute or 1:25 hours time difference. “Studies have shown that this was the best move,” according to George Stone, the principal of AVHS.

   So, what made this the best move? There are arguments to be made about starting school earlier in the day as opposed to the standard time.

   The sleep schedule of the average teenager does not fit a regular school schedule. The “circadian rhythms,” the human response to stimuli, for the average adolescent or teenager responds differently than other age groups. There is a tendency to sleep more in the morning and stay up later at night, perhaps due to homework or sports.

   A study of sleeping habits conducted by Brown University in 1998 followed sophomores who were having to attend school an hour earlier than they did in  their freshmen year. On average, students went to bed at 10:40 p.m., the same time during the two years, according to

    “…Typical sleep cycles begin around 11 p.m. for teenagers and continue through 8 a.m. This means that an early wake up call (prior to 8;00) requires students to wake up in a deep sleep…,” explained    

Other studies that show more sleep as a result of different start time is a good thing. Researchers analyzed data from eight  high schools (and a lot of teenagers) in Minnesota, Wyoming, and Colorado. They found that school day later in the morning resulted in a boost in attendance, test scores, and overall grades, according to

   As with many actions, there is another side. Arguments can be made about keeping traditional  school hours, or adjusting times to another schedule.

  One such argument is that if the hours of school were changed, it could make parents’ schedules hard to coordinate with their kids. New arrangements would need to be made for pickups, drop-offs, and extracurricular activities. These schedules would be even more frustrating if a family has two kids in two different schools (i.e., middle school and high school), according to

   Another point to consider is that time for homework might become limited.  This is because the schedule change is designed to save time in the morning, but this is sacrificing time in the evening. The main reason a schedule change was brought up was because students are tired in the mornings, which is a result of going to bed late, which is usually a result of homework. It (homework and sleeping)is like a cycle, according to
   The big question still remains. Should schools start later, and continue into the afternoon or stay as they have traditionally?