Do later school starting times offer a cost-effective method for improving student performance?

July 29, 2019

Answering the Bell: High School Start Times and Student Academic Outcomes. Research in the area of health and sleep has encouraged educators and policymakers to look to delaying school starting times as an intervention with the potential to improve achievement and other relevant student outcomes. At this time, studies conducted on starting school days at a later time show mixed results. Although, a sufficient number of studies exist to suggest that moving back the start time of school can contribute to improving lagging student performance. This research finds starting school later is associated with reduced suspensions and higher course grades. These studies suggest disadvantaged students may especially benefit from delayed starting times. This study attempts to fill in the research gap on the topic of later start times as much of the earlier research has been conducted using small sample sizes. To increase the sample size needed to confirm previous research, Bastin and Fuller use statewide student-level data from North Carolina to estimate start time effects for all students and traditionally disadvantaged students. Statewide achievement results were mixed, with positive and negative associations found between start times and high school students’ test scores. Bastin and Fuller counsel for further research to increase confidence that later start times predictably produce desired outcomes.  Studies of sufficient rigor, using multiple populations, and across different settings are required to address remaining issues and possible unintended consequences associated with changing start times.  

Citation: Bastian, K. C., & Fuller, S. C. (2018). Answering the Bell: High School Start Times and Student Academic Outcomes. AERA Open4(4), 2332858418812424.