TRENTON, NJ – Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation Friday requiring the Department of Education to establish a four-year pilot program testing later school start times for high school students.
“We are striving to do all that we can to improve health and wellness for our students. Research also shows that academic progress may be negatively impacted by starting school too early. By testing the viability of changing start times, we are exploring ways to improve learning outcomes for New Jersey students,” Murphy said.
The legislation (S3160) will assess how shifting start times would impact districts overall, including how extracurricular activities may be impacted and how transportation to and from school would be affected. Under the legislation, Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet will select five school districts to participate in the pilot program. Those school districts must include urban, suburban, and rural areas of the state.
A 2014 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) indicated that sleep deprivation, particularly among adolescents, is a critical problem and has numerous negative impacts on academics, health, safety and well-being. According to the report, one factor contributing to the lack of sleep is the start time for schools. In its report, the AAP recommended that high schools delay the start of class until 8:30 A.M. or later. The report indicated that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, have better grades, and have an overall higher quality of life.
“Adolescents are not getting enough sleep to live up to their full academic potential, and early school start times are to blame,” said Senator Richard Codey. “Numerous studies by the CDC and the American Medical Association support that early school start times conflict with the physical and psychological growth of adolescents. This isn’t just an idea, research backs up this problem. The negative effects of not getting enough sleep will cause mental health issues within students. This is one of the reasons we need to educate students on mental health in order to help those who suffer from its effects.”
“Teens are operating on too little sleep to the detriment of their physical, social, emotional and ultimately academic well-being,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. “With later school start times, students could get a little more sleep giving them just the extra boost they need for success. It’s a strategy that has great potential to work in our largely diverse state and merits our attention.”
“Our school schedules should reflect the needs of our students,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. “So often, our children are attending school on far less sleep than what is medically recommended. This pilot program will give us a deeper understanding of how a later start to the school day may impact students – especially in regards to academic performance. This law is supported by advocates and experts alike, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
“The purpose of school and education is to maximize human potential,” said Assemblywoman Carol Murphy. “When students are not well rested they aren’t showing up to school in best mindset to learn. For that reason, it’s imperative we take on task of pinpointing feasible ways to better meet the needs of our teens. If changing high school start times by an hour makes a difference, it’s an avenue we definitely need to explore.”