Early High School Start Times May Hurt Attendance

FRIDAY, May 1, 2020 (HealthDay News) — High school students who have early start times are more likely to show up late or cut school entirely, a new study finds.

As schools across the United States think about reopening, they might want to bear this in mind.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that high schools begin class after 8:30 a.m., but we know that most schools start much earlier,” said researcher Melinda Morrill, an associate professor of economics at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh.

“We were able to look at five high schools that moved start times from 8:05 a.m. to 7:25 a.m. in order to examine the effect that the change had on students,” she said in a university news release.

The researchers found that the five schools had significantly lower rates of absenteeism and lateness when they started at 8:05 a.m. than 14 schools that started at 7:25 a.m. Once those five schools moved their start time to 7:25, those advantages disappeared, Morrill said.

Earlier start time was associated with about one additional absence a year and just over three additional late arrivals a year for students, according to the report published in the June issue of the journal Economics of Education Review.

The move to the earlier start times was also tied to an increase in the number of students who did not advance to 12th grade on time, said researcher John Westall, a Ph.D. candidate at North Carolina State.

“Specifically, the move from 8:05 to 7:25 was associated with students being 8% more likely not to advance to 12th grade on schedule,” Westall explained.

What’s the take-home message here? “That we need to look at more than just test scores if we want to understand all of the ways that early start times can affect high school students,” Morrill said.

“We know that school districts have to consider a wide range of issues, such as transportation logistics, student safety, extracurricular activities and school finances,” Morrill continued. “But the more we look, the more the findings suggest that there are significant consequences of early start times for students.”

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SOURCE: North Carolina State University, news release, April 27, 2020

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