Necessary Changes to America’s Public High School System

by Zach McGowan

Across the nation, many would admit that the system of the education system of the United States, although it provides us one of our greatest opportunities as Americans, is a system in need of remodeling. Important areas of improvement include school start times, the outdated bell scheduling system, and a more well-rounded curriculum.

School Start Time

The time at which school begins for most public high schools is ridiculously early. In North Attleboro, the bell rings every morning at 7:15 AM to notify students that they must be in their assigned homerooms, and if they are not, they are considered to be tardy.

This early start time is a major flaw in our school system, as many students have developed issues that derive from a lack of sleep. Not only are students’ grades being affected, but there have also been growing health concerns that result from a lack of sleep. According to Myers’ Psychology for AP, sleep deprivation effects include: altered hormonal and metabolic functioning that mimic aging, suppressed immune system, more irritability, slowed performance, impaired creativity, concentration and communication, slower reaction times and more errors made with visual tasks. This is an issue that has long been neglected, even though valid research and solid evidence provide proof that expose the flaws of the early school start times.

The Center for Disease Control has urged school districts and policymakers to push back start times. These experts on the importance of sleep have expressed their concerns for early school wake ups, and say that schools “should stop trying to fight teenagers’ circadian rhythms.”

In an article featured in the Smithsonian, Anne Wheaton, a member of the CDC’s Division of Population Health, stated, “Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance.” Wheaton also added, “Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need.”

Bell Schedule System

The bell scheduling system employed in many public high schools, including North Attleboro, is a long-outdated system that was originally implemented for factory workers way back in the Industrial Revolution. The current bell schedule “makes students look like zombies,” according to NAHS senior Vinny Zammiello. Zammiello continued, “I think that it makes students be almost stuck, for lack of a better term, in their daily routines. Doing the same thing over and over can get tiring and it doesn’t help for the students to carry out the same day 5 days a week.”

As for a change that can reform this system for the better, the inclusion of a rotating schedule could make for a more interesting day and prevent students from getting “stuck” in the same daily routine.

At least some teachers at NAHS agree with this sentiment. “A rotating schedule would be helpful because students act differently depending on the time of the day. Some students might be exhausted in period one and not able to focus, but then two periods later are awake and alert,” said NAHS English teacher Mrs. Violette. She added that “seeing students at their different states of alertness” could benefit both the student and teacher.

Curriculum

Many would argue that, with the growing popularity of regional vocational technical high schools and the shrinking budgets of public high schools, normal public high schools are lacking “hands-on” classes that prepare students for the real world. It is important to note that the district of North Attleboro is responsible for paying for students to attend Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School. These expenses eat from the budget within the district, and results in students at NAHS who are pursuing career paths that are not trained at Tri-County lacking basic “hands-on” life skills taken from technical classes. Without these skills, students could grow to become adults who will not be able to do things such as fix simple mechanical issues around the house. Consequently, they will spend unnecessary money on a professional to perform an easy fix.

Also, these schools often lack classes that provide other important, relevant life information such as how to buy a house, take out a loan, mortgage, etc. Many would agree that adding classes that teach this vital information would be beneficial to having future generations that can confidently handle their money as adults.  

To conclude, it is evident that although the strength in opportunity that America’s public school system offers is undeniable, changes need to be made to further improve and remodel the system. If such changes were made right here in North Attleboro, we could potentially see a decrease in habitual tardiness or absenteeism, improved student performance, and fewer discipline issues.

(Featured image: http://www.istockphoto.com/photos/6-o’clock?excludenudity=true&sort=best&mediatype=photography&phrase=6%20o%27clock)

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