Less Homework, NOT Late Start, Solution to Sleep Deprivation

Vaughn Luthringer & Samuel Ganten, Staff Writers

Controversy over school start times has recently increased as students have progressively become more and more sleep deprived. A 2010 study by The Journal of Adolescent Health found that “a scant 8% of US high school students get the recommended amount of sleep.” For some schools, a later start time is the perfect fix for students’ growing fatigue, but while a later start time may be an effective way of combating general weariness in many high schools across the country, it is no solution for the high-achieving student body of Campolindo.

Hypothetically, later start times would mean that school would begin around 9 am and conclude around 4 pm. As most Campolindo students participate in after school sports or extracurriculars, delayed dismissal times for school would lead to conflicts with these activities. Such a situation does nothing to reduce tiredness, as it would cause later practice times, later club meets, later homework completion and therefore later bedtimes. A late bedtime would only alter student sleep schedules in an unhealthy way. The National Sleep Foundation found in a 2014 study that teenagers aged 15-17 only receive an average of 7.5 hours of sleep on school nights, and the same foundation also found that teenagers should get 8 to 10 hours per night.

Students who hold after-school jobs may be forced to work well into the evening when they would ideally be sleeping. For kids with sports or other after-school activities, this could be a huge problem. Later starts would only benefit students with no after-school commitments.

Even if these concerns could be mitigated through the implementation of later start times, the overall usefulness of such an alteration is questionable. A 1998 Brown University study followed tenth graders as they switched from an 8:20am start time to a 7:20 am start. This study found that students still went to bed at an average time of 10:40 pm. The result of implementing later start times is shown to have no effect on increasing restfulness while creating several negative drawbacks, eliminating the approach’s net benefits.

This is not to say that no high school can benefit from later start times; many institutions thrive with their implementation. A 2015 study from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement reported that “shifting the school day later in the morning resulted in a boost in attendance, test scores, and grade in math, English, science, and social studies.” Campolindo counselor Duane Magno agrees; “Ultimately,” he said, “a lot of our students in all grade levels have a lot on their plates, and I know that when the school day ends, there are so many of them [where] it’s off to athletics, or a job, or volunteering somewhere, and if those things, in addition to homework and academics keep students up late at night, past an ideal bedtime, then having an extra hour in the morning, I think, can be beneficial for those students.”

However, these possible benefits are likely lost on Campolindo, given our athletic-oriented culture. Many students are involved in sports, and moving their practice times later wouldn’t reduce their fatigue; these athletes would most likely see their sleep schedules changed in a negative way.

Athletics isn’t the only area where a later start time would cause problems. Campolindo is an academically driven school with difficult classes and heavy work loads which accompany its prestige. Projects and assignments already force students to work well into the night; later start times would only exacerbate this phenomenon. Later dismissal times would reduce the time allotted for homework.

The real villain at a school like Campolindo is not the early start time, it’s the excessive homework. Sports, jobs, and clubs are student endeavors that continue to grow and take up more of a student’s high school experience. When discussing student fatigue, homework must be viewed as a primary factor, if not the primary factor.

In an editorial by Alfie Kohn, she reports that no correlation exists between homework and student achievement. While there is a place for some practice and enrichment beyond the classroom, teachers must take steps to reduce unnecessary homework for the sake of student health. Teachers should also make an effort to coordinate with each other to space out tests and projects, and reorganize the suggested testing schedule to maximize effectiveness.

At Campolindo, a later start time might help a minority of students who do not participate in the myriad of extra-curricular opportunities. Reducing homework would be a more effective solution however, allowing students to get more sleep without disrupting after school activity schedules.