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April 28, 2016

Graduate Student Finds Link Between Morning Math Classes and Increased Performance

A study has found that students who took morning math classes were more likely to have higher math grade point averages (GPA) and standardized test scores compared to their peers who took afternoon math classes.

Nolan G. Pope, a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Economics, analyzed the schedules, grades, and standardized test scores of 1.8 million sixth through 11th graders in the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2003 to 2009.

The data showed that students who took math in the first two periods of their six-period day performed significantly better than those who took it in the last two periods. The former group’s average math GPA was 2.02, while the latter’s was 1.91. The average California Standards Test (CST) score of the morning math students was a 309.76; the afternoon students’ average was a 304.49.

Pope’s research also found that students who took morning English classes had, on average, higher English GPAs than those who had English in the afternoon. However, the study found no link between morning English classes and improved standardized test scores.

He poses several potential explanations for what he refers to as “the time-of-day effect”, including decreased student learning ability, declining quality of instruction, and lower student attendance in the afternoon. Pope hopes his findings will lead to future research on some of these possibilities.

“I’d like to be able to parse out a little bit on whether [the time-of-day effect] is happening because of the students or if it’s happening because of the teachers, and if breaks throughout the day can help,” Pope said.

Pope also mentions the implications his findings can have on education policy.

“Students’ schedules can be rearranged to improve overall learning; there’s an ability to move some classes from the afternoon to the morning and some classes from the morning to the afternoon and have this overall improvement of students’ test scores and GPA and therefore, potentially their underlying learning as well,” Pope said.

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