Awake and Ready to Learn? A Comprehensive Analysis of School Start Times

The investigators are assessing how school start time changes impact student sleep, school engagement and achievement outcomes, and the daily schedule and interactions with school district personnel and parents. The study takes advantage of a natural event in which an urban school district in North Carolina delayed start times for district high schools and advanced start times for the district elementary schools. The investigators are conducting two complementary studies that broaden the scope of school start time research. The first study assesses the effect of changing school start times in the urban school district, and the second study assesses the impact of elementary and middle school start times on student outcomes across the entire state. Findings from this study will provide information on the resultant impact and potential unintended consequences of school start time changes.


  • Later school start times were associated with positive student engagement outcomes (reduced suspensions, higher course grades), especially for disadvantaged students.
  • Achievement results were mixed, with positive and negative associations between start times and high school students’ test scores.

Continued research is necessary to evaluate the efficacy of later start times as a scalable and cost-effective approach for boosting engagement and achievement. (From the AERA Open Research Article, linked below).


Health & well-being: Student sleep duration and quality

Students: school absences and tardies, suspensions, grades, test scores
School district: perceptions of start time changes on classroom instruction, student engagement, collaboration with colleagues, and work-life balance
Parents: start time changes on family’s schedule, interactions and engagement with school, and school-life balance of their child


Study one provides a deep, mixed-methods look at the effects of a start time change in a single urban school district while study two provides a higher-level, quantitative analysis of start time impacts across the entire state. In study one, sleep survey responses and sleep-wake diaries are collected from the district’s elementary, middle, and high school students to compare sleep data across grades and to compare with another school district. Closed-ended survey items and coded responses from open-ended survey items and focus group questions are quantified to assess the perceptions of school personnel and parents. Both studies use linear regression models to examine the association between start times and student outcomes, with interaction terms to test whether the associations between school start times and student outcomes are larger for disadvantaged students or for students at particular grade/age levels.

Children in school uniforms ready for school standing in front of parents
Grantee and Partner organizations

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Grant status
Principal investigators
Kevin Bastian, PhD
Sarah Fuller, PhD
Start date
Award amount
15 months

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