This op-ed was written by Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter).

I think it would be an understatement to say Rhode Islanders were shocked by the recently released test results from the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS).  The results clearly demonstrate that Rhode Island’s public education system is far from satisfactory, let alone anything to be proud of, and there are several problems that need to be rectified for the sake of our children.

Many different reasons, some say excuses, have been bandied around in the press and on social media regarding why our state’s scores were so disappointing.  Some of these theories have substantial weight, while others do not.  Yet, there is one aspect to our children’s education that I did not see publicly discussed at all and I think it could have a significant impact on our state’s dismal education scores.

I am talking about the all too early high school start times that are truly hampering our kids’ ability to learn. 

As the Chairwoman of the House Commission Studying High School Start Times, I have listened to numerous educational and health experts who are shouting to the high heavens that our high school start times are having a detrimental effect not only on our kids’ health, but also their ability to learn in the classroom.

We were also shown data that demonstrated a correlation in later high school start times and higher grades and rates of attendance and graduation, due to improved mood and performance from getting more sleep. Numerous studies that involved both surveys on the subject and actually experimenting with later start times further demonstrated to us its benefits.

The evidence and data presented to the commission was highly compelling and the commission came to a clear consensus that our early high school start times are affecting our children in numerous negative ways.  If we want our children to succeed in their educations, we need to provide them with the most optimal and beneficial learning environment and that very much includes proper start times that allow our children to go to school well-rested and ready to comprehend and retain the information being presented to them in the classroom.

While we search for answers and remedies to our standardized testing failures, I urge all stakeholders to also consider the impact of our early high school start times and to contemplate how our state’s scores could improve if our children were well rested and ready to learn when they arrived at school.​