Although the important role of sleep in memory was recognized more than a century ago (5), more recent research has clarified the causal mechanisms through which sleep benefits memory, namely by active consolidation of memories through the reactivation of newly encoded memory representations that become incorporated into long-term knowledge (5,10).
Excerpt from Preventing Chronic Disease, Volume 11, E216.
Unfortunately, according to the recent article mentioned above, few students get the recommended daily allowance of sleep in order to be at full-functioning capacity during school hours. Not only do we find differences between ethnicities, we also find differences within an ethnicity with respect to age.
I am lucky to work at a school that begins at 8:45am so that students can get a bit more sleep each night. It doesn't always work, however, as in New York City students can travel an hour to get to school (as happens with some of our students) and so they have to get up early anyway.
I hope this data is continued to be taken into consideration in future policy decisions.