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Starting Times for U.S. Public High Schools

Mar 2, 2020

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a new study of school start times for public high schools in the United States by selected characteristics and state. It uses data from the School Questionnaire of the 2017-18 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), which is both a state and nationally representative sample survey of public and private K-12 schools, principals, and teachers in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The selected school samples include about 10,600 traditional and charter public schools and 4,000 private schools.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in August of 2014 that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students the opportunity to get a sufficient amount of sleep.

Schools were asked to report the official start time for most students at their school during the 2017-18 school year. The average start time for public high schools was 8:00 a.m. Forty percent of schools had start times between 8:00 a.m. and 8:29 a.m.

School Characteristics and Start Times

While the average start time was 8:00 a.m., schools with certain characteristics had later average start times. Specifically, the average start time for schools with less than 100 students and those with 100-199 students had average start times of 8:12 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., respectively. These later averages were driven by larger percentages of start times at 8:30 a.m. or later. Similarly, charter schools had an average start time of 8:05 a.m. More than half (64 percent) of charter schools had a start time after 8:00 a.m.

 HS Avg Start Time

Most high schools in suburbs (54 percent) had a start time before 8:00 a.m. More high schools in cities (26 percent) than in suburbs (18 percent), towns (13 percent), and rural areas (11 percent) had a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later.

 HS Avg Start Time by Community

Do average high school start times vary across the 50 states and the District of Columbia?

High schools in the four states of Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, and South Carolina and the District of Columbia reported their average starting time as 8:16 a.m. or later. High school began, on average, at 8:16 a.m. in Iowa, followed by 8:21 a.m. in Minnesota, 8:26 a.m. in Alaska, 8:34 a.m. in South Carolina, and 8:41 a.m. in the District of Columbia.

HS Avg Start Time by State

High schools in four states (Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire) reported their average starting time as being before 7:45 a.m. High school began, on average, at 7:30 a.m. in Louisiana, followed by 7:38 a.m. in Massachusetts, 7:39 a.m. in Connecticut, and 7:41 a.m. in New Hampshire. The average high school starting time in all other states fell between 7:45 a.m. and 8:15 a.m.

To view the full report, please visit