Editorial: A Possible Solution, Starting the School Day Later

“I don’t know if we can ever fully close the achievement gap,” said Joe Burks, JCPS assistant superintendent, during a lecture. The achievement gap is what researchers call the difference in test scores and school performance between schools in an area. For example, 5 schools will do exceptionally well, while the remaining 7 will be borderline failing. In Joe Burks’ case he is specifically talking about schools in the JCPS district. While there is some debate about whether the gap can ever fully be closed, there is only agreement that it should be smaller than it is.

Pinpointing the one cause of the gap is impossible. There are so many contributing factors to the outstanding problem that one cannot assume there is a single quick fix. Research has found that a leading issue is attendance. In the majority of the cases, the underperforming schools suffer from attendance issues, while the high achieving schools have very little attendance problems. This attendance issue is closely related to poverty. The same schools that suffer from poverty also suffer from attendance. There is a link between the two. In many cases, impoverished high school kids have to deal with scenarios that financially well off kids do not. For instance, a teen who must get his younger siblings up, make them lunch and get them to their bus stop safely every morning is going to have a harder time getting to school on time than a kid who has no morning obligations.

In order to tackle this area of concern directly the JCPS administrators need to push back the start of the school day by thirty minutes. There has already been much research in favor of this proposal, including a recent study done in part by Dr. Judith Owens on middle schoolers in Chicago. “There’s biological science to this that, I think, provides compelling evidence to why it makes sense,” explained Dr. Owens. The study ultimately concluded that thirty extra minutes leads to less tardies as well as other benefits such as better alertness, better moods, and better behavior.

The major opposition to this proposal has been the issue with parents leaving their kids for work. I would suggest only implementing this into high school education where the kids can stay at home by their selves. This will especially help impoverished families where the kids must tackle their hardships in the early morning, and hopefully help them get to school on time. With more kids at school on time and present for learning materials, test scores among schools is sure to increase. And while it may not “close” the gap as Burks said, it would help make it smaller.