As school administrators start planning for the 2015/2016 school year, it is time to examine a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). According to the report, the early start to the school day in New Jersey may be leading to sleep deprivation – which has a negative impact on the health and learning abilities of teens.
Through its extensive research, the AAP recommends start times after 8:30am as “an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss.” Later start times have also been shown to boost overall physical and mental health, as well as academic achievement.
A recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found 59 percent of middle schoolers and 87 percent of high schoolers throughout the country got less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep at night.
While the New Jersey School Boards Association does not keep data for statewide school start times, an analysis conducted by New Jersey State Senator Richard Codey (D-Essex) found that 10 of the 12 public school districts in his legislative district begin their days before 8:00am, as do five of the 12 middle schools.
Citing the AAP report and the National Sleep Foundation poll, Senator Codey introduced a bill (S-2484) on October 9 that directs the New Jersey Department of Education to conduct a study on the potential health benefits of starting middle and high school students’ days later, as well as the negative academic consequences of sleep deprivation. A similar bill (A-3845) has been introduced in the Assembly. The bill, which has sailed through the Senate Education Committee and was released from that committee on Dec. 1, 2014, also would create a pilot program monitored by he state for selected schools to test out later start times.