Most parents discover that teenagers want to sleep in. (Turns out there is a good biological explanation behind this.) Most school districts nonetheless arrange early morning classes for high school students. In the many parts of the country this allows school buses to run two shifts and means that the really little kids aren’t standing outside in the dark in the winter. But does the early start really hurt education for teenagers?
The research team of Scott E. Carrell, Teny Maghakian, and James E. West did a really clever comparison of the effects of early versus late first-class start times by looking at freshman at the Air Force Academy. The Academy has a large number of students taking identical classes with common grading. Some students have early start times and some have later start times. What’s more the Academy varied the start of the first class in different years. Even better–from the point of view of the statistician if perhaps not from the perspective of the affected 18 year old–students are randomly assigned to classes.
Students assigned to early classes not only performed worse in that first class; they performed worse for the rest of the day. A lot worse.
And moving the time of the first class from 7:00 to 7:50 mostly eliminated the problem.