Seattle Schools Started Letting Students Sleep In A Little Longer — And Saw Dramatic Results

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Students in Seattle schools are sleeping in later than ever before each school day. And their teachers are thrilled with it.

Seattle Public Schools began implementing a later start time for its students in the 2016-17 school year, in part to give students more hours of sleep ahead of their classes each day. Whereas students used to come to school at 7:50 a.m. each weekday, now students get to classes at 8:45 a.m., according to reporting from National Public Radio.

It’s a move that has a lot of teachers’ support.

“When we started at 7:50 a.m. there would always be stragglers who were having a hard time getting here. For example, if I gave them a project in the lab, they would be the most likely class to mess up,” said Cindy Jatul, a biology teacher at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington.

The improvement in student learning behaviors is not just anecdotal — researchers at the University of Washington decided to study the effects of academic learning both before and after the schedule change. What they found was a remarkable change, for the better.

Students, the study found, didn’t end up staying up later each night, as some might have expected they would knowing they have a later start in their day the following morning. Rather, the average student went to bed at the same time each night, but woke up usually a half hour or so later in the morning.

That half hour may sound inconsequential. But the data suggests it made a world of difference.

Tardiness levels are down, as are absences among the student population. And grades have gone up. The University of Washington study discovered, in fact, that the average grade in classes among students went up by 4.5 percentage points — which could mean the difference between a passing or failing grade for a good number of pupils.

Sleep is important for everyone, but getting a full night’s sleep for students is especially crucial. One study on students’ sleeping patterns discovered that it made a monumental difference when it came to memory, for example, according to reporting from the BBC. Students within that study were tasked with learning new vocabulary words, and seeing how well they could retain them the next day or week later. Students who had better sleeping habits turned out to have an easier time completing the task.

It could be that Seattle schools are seeing the positive benefits of more sleep time firsthand. If the trends continue, it may become an idea for other schools to consider exploring, too.