MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — High schools that start later in the morning may be doing their students a world of good, according to a new study released by the University of Minnesota.

The three-year project, commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control, studied five Minnesota high schools — St. Louis Park, Mahtomedi, Woodbury, Park (Cottage Grove) and East Ridge (Woodbury) — and found that students’ grades and health dramatically improved after administrators pushed back the first period bell.

Specifically, the study found improved attendance, standardized test scores and academic performance in math, English, science and social studies.

It also noted decreased tardiness, substance abuse, symptoms of depression, and consumption of caffeinated drinks.

“The research confirmed what has been suspected for some time,” said Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom, director of the U of M’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI), which conducted the study. “High schools across the country that have later start times show significant improvements in many areas. The reduction of teen car crashes may be the most important finding of all, as the well-being of teens and the safety of the general public are interrelated.”

Researchers also looked at late-start high schools in Colorado and Wyoming.

The study found that there was a 70 percent drop in the number of car crashes involving teen drivers at Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming, which shifted to the latest start time of the eight schools at 8:55 a.m.

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