A preliminary look at the early start to the academic day

While I enjoy the early morning start to the teaching day, my students note that consistently arriving on time is difficult. Although there are only seven MWF classes on the books, early trends may presage final results. In this season of American exit polls and projections, here is an initial look at late arrivals and absences in MS 150 Statistics.

sp 07fall 07sp 08
abs 12% 11% 15%
ates 7% 10% 21%
on time 81% 78% 63%

The comparison is of the first seven days for the 8:00 section this term, the first seven days for the 8:30 section last fall, and the first seven days of the spring 2007 9:00 section. The present term's 8:00 section is effectively what was run at 8:30 last fall and at 9:00 the prior spring. Absences are not up statistically significantly due to the small sample size, but late arrivals have tripled. The shift forward of 30 minutes last fall saw a small rise in late arrivals. The shift forward another 30 minutes appears to have had a much bigger differential impact on late arrivals.

Early gale warning signs in an 8:00 section

03 February 2008

Friday featured test one, the first major test of the term in MS 150 Statistics. In an earlier note to some I noted the increase in late arrivals and small uptick in absences. This bird appears to have come home to roost in test one with the 8:00 section averaging 65%. The 9:00 section averaged 71% on test one. This difference, while only six percentage points, contributed to a statistically significant difference in overall performance to date between the two sections. Overall average percentage by section:

The vertical bars are the 95% confidence intervals. With attendance a factor in the grade calculation, overall performance at 8:00 is at 58%, a solid F. Performance at 9:00 is 72%, a comfortable C and a fairly typical post-test one average.

Last term the 8:30 class outperformed the 9:30 section. Spring 2007 that pattern also held - the earlier 9:00 section outperformed the later 10:00 section. Thus the collapse of the performance in the earlier section is all the more unusual.

Again, I urge an organized effort to assess 8:00 performance against fall 2007 8:30 and spring 2007 9:00 sections for those sections that moved forward through these slots. I really do enjoy the early start to the day, but there appears to be a learning impact.

I do appreciate the efforts being made on the transportation side to get students up to campus by 8:00. Again, this service should be assessed for effectiveness and impact. Two van loads of students, thirty at most, helps, but is unlikely to be statistically insignificant against the large number of students impacted by the early start. A survey early in the term, prior to withdrawals, would help determine the number of students who perceive that they have transportation difficulties. I have already had one withdrawal in my 8:00 and am fairly certain I will have more well before midterm.