School Day Start Times
Author: Tara Bergfeld
The school day start time refers to the time of day students begin their classes each day. Issues surrounding school day start times are related to but separate from issues associated with the time of year students begin classes or the structure of the yearly school calendar. Advocates of starting the school day later than 8:00 a.m. often reference studies on the physiology of adolescence, noting that teenagers may find it difficult to fall asleep early enough to receive the eight or nine hours of sleep per night they require. A limited number of formal studies explore the link between later start times and academic achievement. Later start times may help increase attendance and improve academic performance for middle and high school students. This legislative brief reviews the logistical challenges of later start times and examines current school day start times in Tennessee, focusing on districts that have switched to a later start time or are considering such a change. The brief summarizes information on adolescent sleep research that is usually cited by advocates of a later start time, analyzes the physical and academic benefits that a later start time may give to middle and high school students, and reviews case studies of schools that have changed their start times.