Readings: School Start Times


Want to Improve Attendance, performance, and school disruption for free?

I didn’t think so.

For some months I have been wondering why it is that we don’t make the school day later when everyone knows that high school kids need to sleep later. Make the school day from 10-5 and you’d see improvements in attendance, tardies, and performance. And if all those kids were in school in the afternoon, you’d see a decline in crime and teen pregnancy as well. And it wouldn’t cost anything.

The fact that high schools routinely start before 8:00 makes it pretty clear that schools are not willing to be driven by research. Or, really, common sense.

I finally got around to doing a tiny bit of research to see whether I was right, and here’s the deal: Everyone agrees that kids do better in school by a number of measures if school starts later. But they can’t. Why? Sports. If school didn’t end until 5PM when would kids practice banging their heads into each other so that they would get brain damage?

Where’s the proof?

Wolfson, A. R. (2005). A Survey of Factors Influencing High School StartTimes. NASSP Bulletin, 89(642), 47–66. doi:10.1177/019263650508964205

How about 70% fewer car crashes just for starting school at 8:30?

Wahlstrom, Kyla; Dretzke, Beverly; Gordon, Molly; Peterson, Kristin; Edwards, Katherine; Gdula, Julie (2014) Examining the Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study.

Minges, K. E., & Redeker, N. S. (2016). Delayed school start times and adolescent sleep: A systematic review of the experimental evidence. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 28, 82–91. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2015.06.002

Edwards, F. (2012). Early to rise? The effect of daily start times on academic performance. Economics of Education Review, 31(6), 970–983. doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2012.07.006

Thacher, P. V., & Onyper, S. V. (2016). Longitudinal Outcomes of Start Time Delay on Sleep, Behavior, and Achievement in High School. SLEEP, 39(02), 271–281. doi:10.5665/sleep.5426