New Study: Sleeping In, Starting Late Helps Middle Schoolers Learn a Little More

I write here about a lot of different issues related to education and education policy. But this one may be a first for me: How early should school start? When it comes to the bigger kids, middle school and high school students, new research by Finley Edwards featured at Education Next suggests it may actually be better to let them sleep in a little longer, especially the underperforming students. After looking at schools and student results in Wake County, North Carolina, he concludes:

Later school start times have been touted as a way to increase student performance. There has not, however, been much empirical evidence supporting this claim or calculating how large an effect later start times might have. My results indicate that delaying the start times of middle schools that currently open at 7:30 by one hour would increase math and reading scores by 2 to 3 percentile points, an impact that persists into at least the 10th grade.

These results suggest that delaying start times may be a cost-effective method of increasing student performance. Since the effect of later start times is stronger for the lower end of the distribution of test scores, later start times may be particularly effective in meeting accountability standards that require a minimum level of competency.

Of course, I’m not old enough yet for these findings to provide me with any personal benefit. But this research offers one more small, promising idea to local Colorado education innovators who are trying to find ways to spend existing K-12 dollars more productively.

What do you think? Go ahead and debate amongst yourselves. In the meantime, (yawn) I think I’ll go take a nap. Zzzzzz…