Tradition dies hard in education, but nowhere more so than in the hours of a typical school day (“The Curse of America’s Illogical School-Day Schedule,” The Atlantic, Sep. 19). Classes begin too early and end too soon to meet the needs of most students and working parents.
The usual start time for public high schools is 8:00. The trouble is that most teenagers don’t naturally fall asleep until 11:00 or so. As a result, they arrive at school half awake. I vividly remember the semester when I had two classes of senior composition. The first began at 8:15, and the second after lunch period at about 1:00. Both classes were composed of students of equal ability. But the difference in performance between the two was dramatic.
Working parents whose children are in elementary school also find the present schedule to be a burden, but for a different reason. They are forced to find caretakers until they arrive home from work. During the long winter months, they worry about their children walking home in inclement weather.
Eventually, I foresee public schools providing wraparound services that begin with breakfast and end with supper. That would be costly, but I think pressure is building for such a radical change. For one thing, The RAND Corporation estimates that starting school after 8:30 would contribute at least $83 billion to the national economy within a decade. That’s no small thing to consider.
Unfortunately, Gov. Jerry Brown of California vetoed a bill that would have required middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. He said such decisions are best handled at the local school level.
(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)