Later is Better

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Are teenagers lazy? No, they're just not built to be alert early in the morning. Writer Nancy Kalish, co-author of The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It, makes her case for starting the school day later.


Nancy Kalish

Comments [21]


I created a school that opened this past September called Arts & Media Prep. The team not only emphasizes creative thinking from our students, but we engage in inquiry to uncover core problems and find solutions. One of our strategies was to move the schedule later. We start at 9:40 AM. It can be done. We do it.

Jan. 16 2008 09:42 PM
lisa from westchester

A few years ago our district passed a 5 Million dollar bond issue to buy more buses so that we could start 40 min. later in the am. After all the kinks were worked out, the kids only got an extra 15 min. in the morning. It was completely ridiculous. 5 million for an extra 15 min. not to mention the added bus drivers , benefits etc. that were not included in the original bond for more buses GIVE ME A BREAK ! You have to think about the financial burden on communities that are already over taxed. Our district spends about 25,000 per student, it's absurd and can't be maintained.

Jan. 16 2008 12:13 PM
James from New York

It is troubling to hear that the people charged with educating the young find it so difficult to stay informed about what modern scientific research is learning about human beings in general (in this case, teenagers in particular). One would think that if the consensus of scientific research suggests that young people need more sleep, better quality sleep & sleep on a different schedule from mature adults to make educating them easier & more effective, that the educational establishment would know that & make it their business to adapt their systems to that knowledge. If the adults around them find it so hard to keep up & then to alter their behavior in the light of such knowledge, is it any wonder why so many young people find it difficult to avoid so many peer-driven, knowledge-denying, self-destructive behaviors like smoking, drug abuse, poor nutrition, exercise avoidance & excessive junk TV watching.

Jan. 16 2008 12:12 PM
JJ Lassiter from Long Valley NJ

I have 3 girls who everyday get up at 5:30am catch the bus at 6:45am and school starts at 7:40am. So They are up 2hrs before school even starts. The issue is buses. Our buses cover four k-5 schools, a middle school and the one high school. Many days I drive them to school so that they might get and extra 30min to 1 hour of sleep. I have one Jr. who being in the IB Program at school is up many evenings until 10, 11 or 12 at night doing homework. I think sleep is a big issue and the lack there of is a detriment to a young persons learning.

Jan. 16 2008 12:07 PM
Emily from Manhattan

This is ridiculous. I was a teenager relatively recently, and somehow I managed to make it all the way through high school getting up at 6am every day and onto the bus by 7.03am. I fell asleep around 10pm every night, and was awake all day, despite a school day that frequently extended until 6pm.

I think it's a matter of discipline. If teenagers are going to exist in the adult world, they (we) have to learn to function in that world, which includes getting up early, even when it's unpleasant.

This sounds to me like a pseudo-biological way of trying to remove all unpleasantness from life for the sake of our poor, misunderstood children. This is the most cosseted group of teenagers ever, and I shudder to think what kind of ethic we're instilling in them.

Jan. 16 2008 12:02 PM
Bill from New York

I'm guessing the school is scheduled the way it is to make it more convenient to the majority of working parents. Public education is, first and foremost, day care. I think that's where the last caller's comments point.

Jan. 16 2008 12:02 PM
L.W. Dillon from Summit, NJ

My 11th grader is spending the year studying in Spain, and his school day starts about 9 am, breaks for coffee and again for lunch, then resumes from about 3 til 5:30. Works beautifully; after-school activities after that and a civilized dinner at 9!

Jan. 16 2008 12:00 PM
William Scruggs from New Jersey

The day in this country and probably most of the world is set up on an agrarian schedule that is no longer relevent in the modern industrial nations.

Jan. 16 2008 12:00 PM
Kevin from Brooklyn

Hasn't been too long ago, but when I was at Stuyvesant I would sometimes leave for school before least I got some shuteye on the subway because there was hardly anyone on it that early in the morning.

Jan. 16 2008 11:55 AM
E Carrozza from NYC

All school should start later!

Your guest advocates starting the elementary kids earlier to allow high school/middle school to start later. The kids are aslepp at the elementary level too.

9-3 or 9-4 school day would be much better.

Jan. 16 2008 11:54 AM
MiskaMuska from Midtown

I lived in Asia before and school started at 6:50 AM !

Jan. 16 2008 11:54 AM
Veronica from Manhattan

I grew up in the south. My HS started at 7:30 in the morning... reason being they wanted the schools to get out early enough for kids to be able to go to work if they had jobs.

Jan. 16 2008 11:53 AM
Don Wade from Jackson Heights, NY

Aside from all other considerations, it only makes sense to delay all school starts later so people have to travel after rush hour. Since the school day is shorter than a regular work day this would mean that both morning and evening rush hours could be avoided instead of only the evening.

Jan. 16 2008 11:52 AM
Sierra Roussos from Brooklyn

I completely agree with what Nancy is saying, but there is also an other issue.

Starting school later and ending later would make teens' schedules closer to their parents. I've never understood why in the US the school schedule is so diffrent from parents' work schedules, forcing any one with children to have constant child care problems.

Jan. 16 2008 11:51 AM
John Zuarino from Greenpoint

This is true. The latter half of my high school years in North Plainfield, NJ were conducted in split sessions: G9-12 from 7am-noon, G7-8 from 10:30-2:30, and G6 from noon-4:30. You would think that they would organize it in the reverse.

I actually confused a mighty terrible case of mono for general fatigue.

Jan. 16 2008 11:49 AM
RCTNYC from New York City

We spent years pulling our now-19 year-old son out of bed every morning, only to learn that he had fallen asleep in class. He worried about having "insomnia" because he could not fall asleep until after 11 p.m. regardless of how early he had gotten up.

I am all for this. As a NYC high school student, I had to be at school at 8 a.m. and was late virtually every day. One or two hours later, and I'd have been on time.

Let's give the kids a break!

Jan. 16 2008 11:48 AM
Alexander Hoffman from New York

If I didn't know from my time as a high school student 20 years ago, it certainly was made clear during my time as a high school teacher. Yes, high school starts too early for most high school students.

I brough this up with the superintendent of a district with 25,000 students a few years ago and she set me straight. It's about child care.

If high school starts (and ends) after elementary school, then little kids will go home before their older siblings and parents who teach in middle and/or high school. Throughout the country, countless families depend on their older children to watch their little brothers and sisters after school. If elementary schools end (and start) last, then all teachers with children in elementary school can take care of their children after school.

If elementary school were to start before middle/high school, there would be a huge childcare problem in the gap between when the little kids get out of school and the older kids get out of school.

Because districts tend to have one set of buses that makes 3 sets of run - one for each of high, middle and elementary school - the three can't start at the same time.

So, there has to be some order, because of buses. And sizable groups of both parents and teachers want to high school to end before elementary school.

Not a pedagogical or educational reason. But little in schooling is really about teaching or learning, anyway.

Jan. 16 2008 11:18 AM
hjs from 11211

what about 9-5 plus Saturday.
teens should be in school more not less.
this nation is falling behind the other G7 nations.

more science and math classes should be required also critical thinking

Jan. 16 2008 11:07 AM
astoria from astoria

Overcrowded schools contribute to the scheduling problem in the City. Today's NYTimes has an article about conditions at Richmond Hill High School, where the first lunch period starts around 9AM. This is the norm at most large high schools in Queens. Some students at Long Island City HS have schedules that keep them in school from before 8 until after 5.

Jan. 16 2008 10:39 AM
Gary from Manhattan


My hypothesis is so many interest groups are comfortable with the system as is--teachers, bus drivers, janitors, etc.--that any attempt at changing school hours to benefit THE KIDS is immediately met with unions jumping up and down screaming that such changes can't be done (because it will mess up their afternoon plans).

As a kid growing up in the suburbs, I had to stand out in the freezing cold at the bus stop at 7:00 am every school day. Arriving at school around 7:30 am, I was a zombie for the rest of the day. When "released" at 2:05 pm from the day prison (a/k/a high school), I had a gigantic amount of time to burn until reporting back to "prison" the next day (Note: my high school had a huge chain-link fence surrounding it). (Yeah, I know I was supposed to be doing homework during that time. Right.)

It's absolutely ridiculous requiring kids to wake up a crack of dawn to go to school and expect them to be productive students. We're still on an agrarian schedule applicable 150 years ago.

Jan. 16 2008 10:19 AM
Kathryn Tornelli from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Early-morning school has never made sense to me, my husband, and now to my six-year-old son. I have questioned since my own childhood why the “morning people” get to be in charge: I’m sorry, but in our family (and I wager in many others) we don’t particularly care for worms!

Jan. 16 2008 10:15 AM

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