Teenage brains don't work before 10 a.m.

March 15, 2013

Your recent article on the scheduling of the high school day notes that several Maryland counties are studying the possibility of later starting times as a way of improving students' academic performance ("Md. school systems study later start for high schools," March 11).

Some counties are citing cost savings and convenience as an incentive. But here's the real reason we should change the start times.

Simply put, a teenager's brain is not ready to learn at 6 a.m. That's why it is typical for teenagers to sleep late on weekends. Their brains' developmental time does not start until 10 or 11 in the morning. This is the same reason why adults can get up at 6 a.m. and hit the ground running — our developmental time starts earlier.

Here's a thought: With a later start time, we could move sports activities to the morning hours before classes begin. It is proven that physical activity warms up the brain. After sports practice, students would be energized and their brains would be ready for a day of learning — starting around 10 or 11 in the morning, when they are much more capable of absorbing information.

Ben Shifrin, Baltimore

The writer is head of the Jemicy School in Owings Mills.

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