Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Tougher Task

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Tougher Task

Article excerpt

CHILDREN, especially adolescents, often burn their candles at both ends, which may explain why so many of them have trouble with the rise- and-shine part of everyday life. And the problem is epidemic, as most parents of teenagers can attest.

To combat absenteeism as a result of oversleeping, the Boston School District is trying a new approach this year. It has provided each student in Greater Egleston Community High School with a new watch, complete with built-in alarm. According to the November 1 Education Life supplement of the New York Times, the watches are "only a tiny piece of a $2.5 million districtwide war on truancy" that is funded by private and federal monies. Other parts of the carrot-and-stick program in Boston will include cash prizes for exemplary school attendance, the hiring of more truant officers, and stepped-up police sweeps of the places where truant teens hang out.

Meanwhile, Minnesota - the state that just elected a former professional wrestler and a third-party candidate, Jesse (The Body) Ventura, to the governorship - has been thinking out of the box as well on the issue of adolescent sleep needs. When the 1997-98 school year began, the metropolitan Minneapolis school district responded to current research findings on that topic (detailed in this month's Kappan) by changing the starting times of most of its schools. (Moving back high school starting times to accommodate the sleep needs of adolescents has a domino effect on the schedules of schools serving younger children in districts that have multi-tiered busing schedules.) A year earlier, the suburban Minneapolis school district of Edina shifted its high school to a later starting time, an action that likewise affected the other schools of that community. In neither instance was the change in school starting times smooth or easy, as the authors in this month's special section point out. …

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