High school should start later, new report delivers arguments

A new report from the University of Minnesota will be hailed as best news for months for many teens as it presents findings from a three-year study on high school start times. It examined whether or not a delay in start times had an impact on students’ overall health and academic performance. And well, it has.

As the John Hopkins Best Evidence in brief summarizes:

The study consisted of three parts. Part 1 involved collecting survey data from over 9,000 students across eight high schools in five school districts. Students were individually surveyed about their daily activities, substance use, and sleep habits. In Part 2 of the study, researchers collected data regarding students’ academic performance, such as grades earned, attendance, tardiness, and performance on state and national tests. The researchers also examined car crash data for the communities involved in the project. Part 3 of the study included an examination of the processes by which local school districts made the decision to change to a later start time.

  • High schools that start at 8:30 AM or later allow for more than 60% of students to obtain at least eight hours of sleep per school night;
  • Teens getting less than eight hours of sleep reported significantly higher depression symptoms, greater use of caffeine, and are at greater risk for making poor choices for substance use;
  • Academic performance outcomes, including grades earned in core subject areas of math, English, science, and social studies, plus performance on state and national achievement tests, attendance rates, and reduced tardiness, show significantly positive improvement with the start times of 8:35 AM or later; and
  • The number of car crashes for teen drivers from 16 to 18 years of age was significantly reduced (by 70%) when a school shifted start times from 7:35 AM to 8:55 AM.    


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