Recent research at the University of Kentucky has found that the early school start times effect on young children is lower standardized test scores, and poorer attendance records.
The results were found to be especially true for children from elementary schools in middle or higher income districts, according to UK associate professor of psychology Peggy S. Keller, who led the research team.
The data was drawn from 2011-12 data at 718 public elementary schools in Kentucky. The research was recently published by the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Educational Psychology.
Individual schools were not identified, however data from schools in Fayette County was included.
The study found “elementary start times are associated with academic achievement,” Keller told the Herald-Leader.
That’s a significant finding because other research has focused on middle schools or high schools. Those studies found that later start times are associated with an increased amount of sleep and better cognitive functioning, she said.
“Our findings indicate that early school start times may be just as detrimental for young children as they are for adolescents,” the research report said. “The relationship between earlier start times and poorer academic performance may be explained by the physical, behavioral and psychological ramifications of sleep deprivation.”
In the study, student performance was measured by test scores that assessed reading, math, science, social studies and writing.
The researchers also looked at attendance rates, school rank, and the number of students who were required to repeat a grade.
Roughly half of the state’s elementary schools start before 8 a.m., Keller said.
In Fayette County, most elementary schools begin at 7:45 a.m. Four — Mary Todd, Northern, Cassidy, and Harrison — start at 8:25 a.m., as do most high schools. Middle schools generally begin at 9:05 a.m.
The difference in scores associated with a one hour later school start time ranged from an increase of three to almost seven points.