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Duncan: Later Start Times for Schools Is 'Common Sense'

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By guest blogger Gina Cairney

Starting school later could help teenagers "get the most from their classroom time," and school districts "should consider" delaying school start times, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said this week.

"There's a lot of research and common sense that lots of teens struggle to get up ... to get on the bus," Duncan said, adding that he will not dictate when the first bell rings. That decision, he said in an interview on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, is left to the school districts.

"I'd love to see more districts, you know, seriously contemplating a later start time," he said on the radio show.

You can read the transcript here.

Studies of teen sleeping habits and the debate surrounding school start times isn't anything new, but Duncan's tweet may be the boost that advocates for later school start times need to motivate school leaders to initiate some changes at the high school level.

Back in March, I wrote about a discussion in Rockville, Md., that explored the effects and benefits of later school start times.

Although the exact benefits of starting school later are not known, experts highlighted research that showed how early school start times affect adolescents' sleep schedules, thereby affecting their academic success.

The Arlington, Va.-based National Sleep Foundation considers adolescent sleep deprivation to be a widespread, chronic health problem, that can have negative effects on teens' cognitive development.

Experts recommend teenagers get around nine hours of sleep, but in reality they get more like six, maybe even less once extracurricular activities are factored into a student's schedule. (Then again, maybe we can look at this as a "college readiness" tactic since they'll probably lose even more sleep once they start college.)

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