Sleepy Teens at School

Teenagers, as if anyone had to be told, have different sleep habits from the rest of the human race. Late to bed, late to rise, they can be out of sync with the schedules of their schools, especially those with start times as early as 7:00 a.m. Teachers face enough frustrations without also dealing with zombie-like or even napping students.

Minnesota, a state noted for progressive education, has experimented in recent years with starting and ending times for high school that are about an hour later. The results? Better test scores, said teachers. Better behavior, said counselors. Improved attitudes, said parents. And students report better attention spans.

A few other alert states have made start-time adjustments, even though obstacles include shifting bus schedules and after-school activities (including part-time jobs).

Early school hours have been indirectly linked to an increase in teen car crashes, according to a University of Kentucky study. Crash rates in one county in that state dropped nearly 16 percent when high school class hours were pushed later.

Education doesn't need to be easy but it should be smart, and appropriate to a teenager's basic needs. If parents want to improve student achievement and safety, they shouldn't be caught napping in encouraging a later start to schools.

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