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Not all schools have seen measurable benefits from starting later.
St. Louis Park High School, which was included in the U’s latest study, didn’t have conclusive academic results. Still, when Superintendent Rob Metz was principal, he remembers greeting students at 7:15 a.m. who were barely awake. Now, with an 8:20 a.m. start, he said teens are more rested and not as rushed.
The other metro schools in the study — Mahtomedi High School, Woodbury High School, Park High School and East Ridge High School — did see benefits such as Mahtomedi’s significant increases in ACT test scores and attendance after moving from a 7:30 a.m. start time to 8 a.m. Plus, the number of student vehicle crashes dropped 65 percent, based on state data of drivers 16 to 18 years old.
Another school in the study, Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming, had a 70 percent drop in the number of teen crashes after the school switched from a 7:35 a.m. start time to 8:55 a.m. — the latest of all eight schools in the study.
“It makes sense, because kids who are sleep-deprived, like most people who are sleep-deprived, are more distracted,” Wahlstrom said.
She cautions that the study doesn’t prescribe later high school start times and she hopes to continue to study crash data. But with more high schools in Minnesota and across the country turning start clocks forward, she hopes the new findings help schools make a decision themselves.
“Schools are really complex, bureaucratic places and to make a shift like this is changing the norms of a community,” she said. “I’m not saying this is a magic bullet, but clearly the more we’re learning about teens and sleep, the more we can make good choices.”
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141 Twitter: @kellystrib