If there is one huge thing about current education that I would change, it would be the start time for school. Our school district starts middle and high school days at 7:40AM. This start time goes against the basic biology of teenagers. They need more sleep and are practically nocturnal creatures. It's like being a day person who signs up to only work nights. They just aren't going to perform at their peak. They aren't going to retain as much knowledge. A staggering amount sleep through first and second period because they are still tired.
Now, the obvious answer might be that they need to go to bed earlier, and sure, that's true, too. But they are teenagers. They are not adults. Just because something is obvious and sensible to us doesn't mean it makes sense to the teenage brain. And as I mentioned, some of them have a natural sleep pattern that has them going to bed later anyway. I used to work retail and worked many Black Fridays. One of my shifts started at 3:30AM. To get a good amount of sleep and be prepared for the absolute insanity of that day, I needed to go to sleep at 7:00PM. I was an adult and I couldn't make myself go against my natural sleep pattern! Why should we think kids can? This is also ignoring the fact that they have a home environment where they could go to bed at 9:00PM or 10:00PM.
And a 7:40AM start time? Some of them ride a bus for an hour or more before even arriving at school! If their bus drops them off at 7:30AM at school, they could have gotten on there as early as 6:30AM. The students who don't want to nap during first and second period begin a habit of caffeine. Whether it's normal soda, Red Bull or coffee, they start drinking it and create a cycle of needing it to stay awake during the day because the caffeine kept them up at night.
One of the downsides to a later start time would be that my workday wouldn't end at 2:20 (well, when the students are there anyway...), but that's a sacrifice I'd make. I don't believe the school day should ever be shortened. The fact is that school is their job and it should last at least as long as a decent workday. The only thing that needs to happen is for the school day to shift an hour or two later than it currently is. If we could do that, I'm sure we'd be surprised by the change in student effort in their first two periods.