As the New Jersey State Legislature considers a bill proposal that would require high schools to start the day no earlier than 8:30 am, it’s worth looking at when students outside the Garden State begin their schools days. In fact, only two states have average start times later than 8:30: South Carolina (8:31 am) and the District of Columbia (8:34 am).
Twenty-four states have average high school start times before 8:00 am. New Jersey’s average high school start time is the 12th earliest in the country at 7:51 am. Advance Media notes that Chatham High School is moving the start of its school day from 7:40 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. next September. The Morris County school enrolls students who are almost all white and wealthy, with the town’s median household income just over $200,000 and home prices averaging about $800,000.
As NJER noted previously, Lakewood High School students, almost all Hispanic and low-income, start their school day at 7:00 am and finish up at 1:30; Asbury Park high school students, Black, Brown, and mostly low-income, start at 7:27 am and end at 2 pm. Trenton Central High School, with similar demographics, starts at 7:30 and ends at 2:00.
Does a school district’s relative wealth play into how early high school students start their days, despite much evidence that many teenagers are physiologically late-risers? If so, the new bill proposal has equity implications.