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Pushing back school start times could help sleep-starved teenagers to make almost a year’s progress, researchers have suggested.
Delaying the start of the day by just an hour could bring an eight-point gain on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NEAP), almost a grade’s worth of learning, according to the Center for American Progress.
The think-tank’s analysis expanded on existing research which found that if middle schools in Wake County, North Carolina, pushed start times back by an hour, they would see a 2 percentile improvement in math scores.
The research was modelled to discover nationwide improvements, if all middle schools in American adopted later start times. According to the results, students would make gain eight points on the NEAP – 10 points is considered a full grade of progress.
High schools would be likely to see similar gains, according to the report’s authors, although they were not included in the study.
“Any parent who has struggled to get their teenage son or daughter out of bed and to school on time knows that early-morning school start times are a challenge,” said Ulrich Boser, Senior Fellow at CAP and co-author of the analysis. This analysis documents for the first time the achievement gains nationwide that could come from starting school later.”
The study follows other research that suggests that teenagers are not getting sufficient sleep. Teenagers body clocks are set that they stay up later than their younger siblings and wake up later also. Middle schools usually start at 8am, meaning that teenagers are missing out on up to two hours sleep a night. Schools in Wake County start as early as 7.30am.
Another recent study found that students who sleep longer achieve significantly higher results than their poorly slept classmates.
The researchers also pointed out that shifting start times could prove more family-friendly in many cases, especially for parents who work and whose office hours don’t match the early start and relatively early finish to the school day.
A number of school districts across the U.S. have experimented with later starts to the day. Seattle agreed to start its middle and high schools at 8.45 and most of its elementary schools at 9.35am.
Catherine Brown, vice president of education policy at CAP and co-author of the analysis, said: “Shifting school schedules to later in the day could result in meaningful student achievement gains and would certainly be a win for working parents, who often struggle with school hours that are completely misaligned to typical work schedules.”