Directors: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani
Class start times and first period performance: a retrospective analysis
This research attempts to decipher the relationship between class start time (CST) and first period grade point average (GPA) at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). It is well known that fatigue among young adults is a growing problem that has negative effects on school performance. Research by Wolfson and Carskadon (1998) shows that students who have a 7:30 am or earlier CST get less total sleep each school night compared to students with a later CST. Additionally, Millman (2005) found that those with an early CST average nearly a half hour less sleep per night compared to those with an 8:00 am start time. Students with early CSTs reported being fatigued during the school day with a tendency for both inattention and to fall asleep during class. Those with more total sleep (i.e., a later start time) reported feeling rested and being motivated to do well in school. Those with an earlier start time reported less motivation to do well in school.
Based on this research, it is important to note the effects that an early CST may have on performance of Cadets. Hansen et al. (2005) found that students performed better later in the day versus in the morning and that students reported struggling more to remain alert and involved in early morning classes. This finding is consistent with the biological rhythm of young adults, where a delay in their circadian sleep phase equates to not being fully alert in the early morning hours. Wolfson and Carskadon (1998) reported that students failing school get nearly 25 min less sleep in comparison to “A” or “B” students. Students on competitive academic tracks, much like the challenging atmosphere of academics at the USAFA, tended to get less sleep on weekdays and weekends than students on a non-competitive academic setting. These students also tended to go to bed later and report feeling less alert than students that are in less competitive academic programs.
The impact of CST (three start time periods: 7:00 am, 7:30 am, and 8:00 am) will be correlated with GPA via multiple regression analysis. Archival GPA data for first period classes for the academic years the last 10 years was gathered. Class start times have changed from 8:00am to 7:30am to 7:00am and back to 8:00am across this period. It was expected that CSTs of 7:00 am and 7:30 am would be associated with low first period GPAs, while CSTs of 8:00 am would have higher GPAs. Results to be discussed.