Sep 7, 2023 - Education

School start time mandates haven't come to Arizona yet

Illustration of a finger stretching out to turn off an alarm clock made from a red apple

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The 2023-24 academic year is well underway, and for Arizona parents that can mean adjusting to new start times that vary up to nearly two hours, depending on the district, school and grade level.

State of play: According to a 2020 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, the average Arizona high school started class at 8:03am —  ranking in the middle of the pack among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

  • High school start times here differ by district, with some as early as 7:15am and others as late as 8 or 8:35.

Why it matters: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Sleep Medicine are among the groups that have promoted later start times for high school and middle school students.

  • Earlier start times can result in less sleep, health problems and lower academic performance, the groups reported.
  • A study by the Brookings Institution earlier this year found that earlier start times in elementary school had "small, mixed effects," giving students more sleep, but resulting in no notable improvement on test scores.

Driving the news: There is a nascent movement for states to mandate later start times in K-12.

  • California last year implemented a law setting the earliest start times as 8:30am for high schools and 8am for middle schools, and Florida followed suit with a law enacted this year.
  • Seattle schools in 2016 bumped start times from 7:50 to 8:45.

Zoom in: Arizona was not one of those states, and there appears to be little discussion of the issue here.

  • The Arizona Department of Education has received few, if any, comments on the subject, spokesperson Doug Nick tells Axios Phoenix.
  • Arizona School Boards Association lobbyist Chris Kotterman said the group hasn't heard any discussion of the issue locally.
  • However, Kotterman tells us that some districts in recent years have pushed back middle and high school start times on their own.

Yes, but: Some groups, including the National Education Association, warn that later school start times can have other drawbacks, such as disruptions to parents' schedules, operational and logistical challenges for schools, and complications with after-school activities.


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