Education Secretary: Let teens sleep more, start school later - FOX 10 News |

Education Secretary: Let teens sleep more, start school later

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has an idea that some believe could improve high school scores and lower dropout rates across the country: sleep in. Duncan says new scientific research shows far too many high school students are getting far too little sleep.

At Lincoln Park High School on Chicago's North Side, virtually every student we talked to said they know they're not getting enough shuteye.

"It's a little hard for me to wake up that early because I'm not much of a morning person," one student says.

"Every day I come to world studies in the morning and everybody there is like dead tired," another boy adds.

Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota is a former school administrator who has been studying teen's sleep habits for nearly 20 years. She says there's a growing body of scientific evidence that teenagers' brains go through a developmental stage which prevents them from going to bed early, yet requires they get more sleep.

Wahlstrom says high schools that have moved their start times back an hour showed dramatic improvement on tests, and lower dropout rates.

"This has revolutionized how students are engaging with school," Wahlstrom explains. "Students are more alert in the first hours of class. We have fewer students suffering from peer relationship and emotional problems in the counseling office."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told NPR he believes too many districts start early because of school bus logistics and parent's work schedules. Duncan said Washington won't mandate later school hours, but challenged districts to take a fresh look at the evidence.

"I think that sounds like a great idea," says parent Mark Golden. "Certainly it's a battle to get our son out of bed early in the morning. and an extra hour, hour and a half of sleep would help a lot."

In Middletown, Rhode Island, the number of students getting eight hours of sleep a night jumped from 16 percent to 55 percent when they started school later.

When FOX 32 News called the Chicago Public Schools to see whether anyone here is taking a look at this, a spokesperson said they have no comment.

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