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Late School Start Times Improves Teen Behavior

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Monday, February 29, 2016

Late School Start Times Improves Teen Behavior

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on The Journal.

A study in the journal Sleep has confirmed the idea that there could be positive outcomes if high schoolers were able to start school later in the morning. This research, performed by faculty members at St. Lawrence University in New York, set out to determine whether "sleep, mood, behavior and academics improved after a 45-minute delay in high school start time." The outcome: Even though students delayed but didn't necessarily extend their sleep time, the researchers did find "lasting improvements" in two areas: tardiness and disciplinary violations.

Beginning in May 2012, Associate Professors of psychology Pamela Thacher and Serge Onyper collected baseline data from school records and student self-reporting at New York's Glen Falls High School. At that point the start time for classes was 7:45 a.m. After the start time was moved to 8:26 at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, the researchers performed two follow-ups, one in November 2012 and the other in May 2013. Instead of school ending at 2:22 p.m., it ended each day at 3 p.m.

At the first follow-up, students reported 20 minutes of additional sleep. Yet, in the second follow-up, students maintained later rise times but delayed bedtimes, thereby "returning total sleep to baseline levels."

The researchers found that the later start time improved "daytime behaviors." However, it had no effect on physical or mental health; nor did it increase exam grades or standardized test scores.

"When students are delinquent and aggressive, late and insubordinate, learning cannot occur," said Thacher in a prepared statement. "We believe our findings with respect to discipline and tardiness are significant because improvements in these domains can help every student in the classroom. For example, benefits could include improved safety, morale, ease and efficiency of operation for most school systems."

To gain changes in those other areas, she suggested, may require "larger improvements in sleep patterns."