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Education chief urges later high school start

WASHINGTON — A later start to the school day could help teenagers get the most from their classroom time, and local districts should consider delaying the first bell, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday.

While pointing to research that shows rested students are ready students, Duncan said it was up to local leaders to make the decisions on their own.

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‘‘There’s lots of research and common sense that lots of teens struggle to get up . . . to get on the bus,’’ said Duncan, the former chief of Chicago Public Schools.

Buses are a driving factor for when schools start their days, as are after-school jobs for teenagers, extracurricular activities, and interscholastic sports. The challenge of transporting students to these activities — as well as classes — often is cited as a reason high school days begin at dawn and end mid-afternoon.

‘‘So often, we design school systems that work for adults and not for kids,’’ Duncan said.

Research backs up Duncan’s worries about student sleep patterns and academic achievement.

‘‘Children who sleep poorly are doing more poorly on academic performance,’’ said Joseph Buckhalt, a distinguished professor at Auburn University’s College of Education.

‘‘If you don’t sleep well,’’ he said, “you don’t think very well.’’

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