College of Education and Human Development

Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development

Kyla Wahlstrom

  • Lecturer; Senior Research Fellow

Kyla Wahlstrom

Areas of interest

Politics of Change
School and District Leadership
Professional Development of Teachers
Later School Start Times


Ph.D., University of Minnesota, educational policy and administration
M.A., University of St. Thomas, special education-learning disabilities
B.S. with distinction, University of Minnesota, Major: Elementary education, Minor: English


Kyla L. Wahlstrom, PhD, is a Senior Research Fellow in the College of Education and Human Development, and also a Lecturer in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development (OLPD). Most recently, Dr. Wahlstrom was the Director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) from 2003-2015. Prior to her appointment at CAREI in 1990, she had 19 years of public school experience as a classroom teacher and special education teacher, school principal and district administrator. Her current research is centered on the impact of later starting times for high schools, the link between school/district leadership and student achievement, the professional development of teachers, and the role of standards in school reform.


Kyla L. Wahlstrom, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development (OLPD) in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, where she has worked for the past 26 years. Most recently she was the Director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI). Dr. Wahlstrom received her Ph.D. degree in the area of educational policy development with a focus on school change. Prior to her appointment at the University of Minnesota in 1990, she had 19 years of school experience as an elementary classroom teacher, a special education teacher, a school principal, and a district administrator of special education.

She is the primary investigator of the original research on school start times begun in 1996. In 2010 she was awarded a federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to continue research on the outcomes for later school start times. Her 20-year study of the effect of the later start time on high school students has influenced school policies across the U.S., and has been featured in publications and media ranging from Congressional Quarterly and Rolling Stone Magazine to Scientific American, Newsweek, NPR’s All Things Considered and PBS’ Frontline. Dr. Wahlstrom is the recipient of the MASCD National Research Award for her ground-breaking study of the effects of later starting times for high schools.
Her other investigative work has also affected the lives of thousands children, such as researching the longitudinal outcomes for students in all-day kindergarten and examining the effects of elementary breakfast programs on learning. Dr. Wahlstrom was the primary investigator on Learning from Leadership, a six-year national research study (2004-2010) funded by The Wallace Foundation, which investigated the link between school leadership and student achievement. This is the largest study on this topic ever conducted. From 1993-2001, Dr. Wahlstrom was the lead American investigator on an international research project involving Russia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom focused on the issue of reform of Russian education and changing the instructional practices of classroom teachers in the former USSR.

Publications include one book, several book chapters, and numerous journal articles and technical monographs used by educational leaders to shape policy decisions across the US. As an adjunct faculty member, Dr. Wahlstrom teaches graduate classes on topics of educational change, research methods, and conceptions of leadership.

Courses Taught

OLPD 8104 Innovative Systems Thinking in Educational Culture

Awards and Honors

  • 2000 National Leadership Award - for research having national impact, Minnesota Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (January 2001)
  • Outstanding Professional Academic Award (chosen to be one of five recipients for this award out of 3,000 employees), University of Minnesota (May 2000)
  • Guest editor of a five-article special section for journal, Phi Delta Kappan (January 1999)
  • Named twice to be a member of the 4-person faculty team that traveled to Russia and Ukraine to provide cultural and programmatic orientation to Russian and Ukrainian faculty scholars coming to America for a year of study, Fulbright Office, Washington, DC (June 1997 & July 1998)
  • Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Regional Award, Phi Delta Kappa (1990)

Meltzer L.J., Wahlstrom K.L., Plog A.E., McNally J. (2022). Impact of changing school start times on parent sleepSleep Health (8)1, 130-134.

Ziporyn T.D. et al., (2022). Adolescent sleep health and school start times: Setting the research agenda for California and beyond. A research summit summary. Sleep Health (8)1, 11-22.

Meltzer LJ, Wahlstrom K.L., Plog AE, Strand MJ. (2021). Changing School Start Times: Impact on Sleep in Primary and Secondary School Students. Sleep (44) 7.

Pelayo, R., Wahlstrom, K., Wolfson, A. (2021). “School Start Time”. Book chapter in Principles and Practice of Pediatric Sleep Medicine—3rd Edition.  Sheldon et al.(Eds.) Missouri:, Publishers.

Wahlstrom, K.L. (2020). "Circadian Rhythms and School Start Times: The Indivisible Link between Medicine and Education". Book chapter in Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorders. R. Auger et al. (Eds.) Springer, Publishers, pp. 91-108.

Berger, A., Wahlstrom, K., Widome, R, (2019). Relationships between sleep duration and adolescent depression: a conceptual replication. Sleep Health 5: 175–179.

Wahlstrom, K. & Owens, J. (2017). School start time effects on adolescent learning, mood and behavior. Journal of Current Opinion in Psychiatry30 (6): 485-490.

Wahlstrom, K., Berger, A. & Widome, R. (2017). Relationships between school start time, sleep duration, and adolescent behaviors. Sleep Health (3), 216-221.

Wahlstrom, K. (2016).  Later start time for teens improves grades, mood, & safety. Phi Delta Kappan, 98 (4).

Wahlstrom, K. (2015). Creative solutions for the ‘sleep phase shift’. School Administrator, 8(1) 16-17.

Wahlstrom, K., Dretzke, B., Gordon, M., Peterson, K., Edwards, K., & Gdula, J. (2014). Examining the impact of later school start times on the health and academic performance of high school students: Final report. Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, University of Minnesota.

Wahlstrom, K. (2012). An up-close view of instructional leadership: a grounded analysis. In K. Leithwood & K. S. Louis (Eds.) Linking leadership to student learning (pp. 68-86). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wahlstrom, K. & York-Barr, J. (2011). Leadership: Support and structures make the difference for educators and students. New Standards for Professional Learning, Journal of Staff Development, 32(4), 22-25.

Louis, K. S. & Wahlstrom, K. (2011). Principals as cultural leaders. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(5), 52-56.

Wahlstrom, K. (2010). School start time and sleepy teens. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, 164(7), 676-677.

Wahlstrom, K., Louis, K. S., Leithwood, K., & Anderson, S. (2010). Learning from leadership: Investigating the links to improved student learning. Research Report Executive Summary. Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. University of Minnesota.

Wahlstrom, K. & Louis, K. S. (2008). How teachers experience principal leadership: The roles of professional community, trust, efficacy, and shared responsibility. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(4), 498-445.

Wahlstrom, K. (2005). Beliefs, reflection and change—Teacher knowledge and the cross-cultural mirror. Journal of Educational Action Research.

Wahlstrom, K. (2002). Changing times: Findings from the first longitudinal study of later high school start rimes. NASSP Bulletin, 86(633), 3-21.

Wahlstrom, K. (2002). Accommodating the sleep patterns of adolescents within current educational structures: An uncharted path. In M. Carskadon (Ed.) Adolescent sleep patterns: Biological, social, and psychological influences (pp. 172-197). Cambridge University Press: New York and Cambridge, England.

Romano, J. & Wahlstrom, K. (2000). Professional stress and well-being of K-12 teachers in alternative educational settings: A leadership agenda. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 3(2), 121-135.

Wahlstrom, K. L. & Begalle, M. (1999). More than test scores – Results of the universal school breakfast pilot in Minnesota. Topics in Clinical Nutrition, 15(1).

Wahlstrom, K. L. (1999). The prickly politics of school starting times. Kappan, 80(5), 344-347.


Wahlstrom, K. (2022). Invited address: “Barriers and facilitators to implementing later school start time".  National Sleep Foundation: Adolescent Sleep Health National Conference. Washington, DC, June, 2022.

Wahlstrom, K. (2022). Peer-reviewed presentation: “School Start Time—How far we’ve come and where we go from here: A global perspective on next steps”. World Sleep Society International Meeting. Rome, Italy. March, 2022.

Updated August 30, 2022