Benefits of Block Scheduling

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Benefits of Block Scheduling
By Celebrian23 (Celebrian23) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:28 am: Edit

I hear so much about the negatives of block scheduling, I don't see how there could possibly be any positives, also why might a school switch from regular to block?

By Katwkittens (Katwkittens) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:47 am: Edit

Our district switched last year, so it was not a school decision rather a school board one. The reasons discussed were easier on the teachers, teach 3 periods and have one off (4x4 block) and cheaper. Don't need as many teachers and don't offer as many classes requiring less teachers. So far, with 3 kiddos in high school currently, I have yet to see any positives for the children. Some teachers have stated that it does allow those that fail a class in the fall to re-take in the spring so they will be promoted to the next grade thus reslting in less retentions. Obviously, this would be aimed at those in jeopardy of not graduating high school and those dropping out in 9th or 10th grade. DS#2 needs 22 units if he wants to graduate this year (early) or if he wants to remain with his class next year requiring 24 units. If 8 classes are offered per year this can result in a minimum of 32 units were he to pass all his classes. As a rising junior this sept. he currently has 22 units. His GC joking offered to let him graduate as a sophomore but she knew that wasn't going to happen!!! She really would like him to graduate at the end of his junior year (this year) but I think that will also be unlikely. He loves all his hs ECs and varsity sports and just isn't ready yet. They get to enjoy him for one more year.

Needless to say, all the money they are saving on having the block schedule is getting quickly spent having to accomodate those requiring additional/advanced courses due to the block scheduling. They will figure all this out sometime AFTER all my kids graduate!

Katw/one less kitten

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:48 am: Edit

I've taught under two different kinds of block scheduling and prefer both methods of block sched to standard scheduling.

The kind where student has four 90 minute classes: teacher has three 90 minute classes per day and one 90 minute prep period. With a typical student load of 30 students/section, that means student load is 90 instead of 150, so it's possible to assign bigger deeper assignments. Students have fewer courses and can do bigger deeper assignments. Students can complete 8 courses a year instead of 6 or 7, which makes them less likely to be short on courses at graduation time. Some graduate early.

The other kind of block is still seven courses but does alternate day scheduling.

Both kinds of block: a 90 minute class means that student have fewer distractions. Once you get a rhythm going, it's not broken too soon. Labs are easier to do in science. In history, it's possible to watch a documentary AND discuss it. In PE, it's possible to do both cardio and strength work, and play a game or two.

Strange advantage: when you have a sub, the sub has fewer students (overall) to work with, and it's not as big a deal if it takes a few minutes to find out where the class is and what to do.

Trivial advantage: on any given day, student only has to carry books for four courses, not 7. Fewer back problems.

in 4x4 block, one advantage is that students can go very deeply into areas that interest them--perhaps taking 8 math credits instead of only 4. It also means that a student taking a class they don't like only has it for one semester.

I'm curious: what disadvantages have you heard?

By Cangel (Cangel) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:49 am: Edit

The public schools in our area switched to block when the graduation standards were raised. The state began requiring 2 more academic credits to graduate, so (in order to allow for failures I think ) they needed students to be able to take more classes. Because of tremendous overcrowding (which has been somewhat improved by lots of new construction, yay!), the easiest way to accomplish this was block - 7 classes/year goes to 8 classes/year.

Science teachers like DH like having longer periods for labs (I don't know any schools in our state that do the 2 period lab classes, not even privates), but English/SS teachers generally had a hard time adjusting. As time has gone by, he sees that it makes scheduling difficult for low volume classes, and first semester APs are tough.

Ironically, the increased standards, one of which was additional science, has in effect strained resources for better students - everyone needs another year of science, but they aren't taking chemistry or physics to fulfill that year, they take "science lite" classes, so with limited numbers of teachers physics is not offered at all about every other year - that's why our children go private.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:54 am: Edit

The other posts came up while I was writing mine - amazing the differences in different parts of the country!

Dmd77 for disadvantages read recent threads on APs and demise of public school. My husband and most of his fellow teachers would probably agree with you, but I think the outcome of more advanced classes being taught, and kids graduating to college early is not what we're seeing here.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:57 am: Edit

On physics: our district is moving to physics-first (9th grade) with an AP physics later, which solves the scheduling number problem. And, having taught under physics first and physics last, I'd go with physics first (physics-chem-bio) rather than (bio-chem-physics).

By Familyguy24 (Familyguy24) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 10:00 am: Edit

My schools just switched to a semi block, where we have 5 periods a day, but 7 total classes, so two we don't have a day and it rotates. One major set back is with the sciences, especially AP chem. In AP chem we had two lab days, each a whole other period that went over an elective (so we would be essentially missing an elective twice a week). No one cares about missing an elective though, AP chem is more important. However, with block scheduling the labs are forced to be in that period when AP chem is the longest. Instead of a whole other period, and it really cut down on the classroom time that the science has, because they have to give up their long period to do labs, where they used to just be able to have a whole other period for the lab, twice a week.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 10:06 am: Edit

I went and looked at the stuff on APs, but didn't see a lot on block scheduling and APs. Our district (which uses three different kinds of block schedules) has in recent years made a HUGE push to have all students take APs.

In one school, AP calc AB is offered as a two-semester 90 min/day course; the same school also offers a one semester version, with AP calc BC the second semester.

Block schedules can be set up in many different ways: it's not the block schedule necessarily that's messing things up.

By Celebrian23 (Celebrian23) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 10:13 am: Edit

I was asking becuase at my school all the Ap sciences work this way: let's say you have ap bio 2 and 3 period, on tuesdays and thursdays you would have class during 2nd period, and class all week during 3rd period, on mondays, wednesdays and fridays you would have study hall during 2nd period, and 3rd period class, this was there is time for labs, this results in 1.5 credits for the student, and it's very helpful

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 10:24 am: Edit

Our school does not have block but they did do it for several years right before my kids entered and they switched back to 8 periods of 40 minutes each.

Dmd already mentioned some advantages to block. One negative is that for many subjects like math or foreign language, it is not too great for kids to not be involved in those skills for what could be 8 months til they get it again. Another thing is that SOME teachers did not use the 80 minute blocks effectively, and kids had trouble in these long blocks when not utilized well. Some teachers might teach for forty minutes and then have kids do work for forty or whatever. An advantage to block is actually the longer block can allow a teacher to do many things that they cannot accomplish with the forty minute time constraint. So, it can be great in this way, that is IF a teacher really takes advantage of changing the teaching format to make good use of an 80 minute period. Some still taught the way they did when they only had 40 minute periods.

One thing I have heard of that I really would have liked to have had is where schools have block on some days (ie., Class X meets for 80 min. on Tues. and Thurs. and Class Y meets for 80 min. on Mon. and Wed. and then each class meets for 40 min. on Fridays). This seems like the best of both worlds to me. Teachers can have longer blocks of time to do certain activities but the courses meet year long and there are not such long breaks from the subject matter. In some ways, it is good for the kids as they do not have homework for so many classes on the same nights even like my kids do, when each class meets daily. I know some schools here in Vermont that have this and I think my niece in Alaska has this arrangement as well. Seems like a compromise of what is good about block and what is good about year long courses.

Cangel wrote: "I don't know any schools in our state that do the 2 period lab classes, not even privates." That is interesting. Our school, which is not on block, does have two period lab classes for science. My kids have to use up two periods in the day for science. The labs are only twice per week and so three days per week they only meet for 40 minutes. I wonder how you guys do labs then! But it definitely does use up two periods in their schedule, which makes it tricky to get everything in. Then there are three days a week that have a sort of "wasted" forty minute period of study hall. However, the music department schedules things like Jazz Theory classes into these forty minute periods three days per week working around the kids' science labs. It allows them to get these kind of courses into their schedule when their schedules are so full and they have this otherwise wasted time. In fact, they do not even schedule things like Jazz Theory until the school year begins and they see when each kid who wants to take these things has their off-lab days/periods. I wish they even worked more things into this "down" time but it is mostly the music department that does this. I think one time they found a way to block in a required course called Personal Wellness into this "dead" time three days per week which was a great idea because kids in the hardest classes who also take a foreign language and any of the music offerings have a LOT of trouble fitting in the required things to graduate like Personal Wellness and Gym.


By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 10:25 am: Edit

Dmd77, our high schools are on block scheduling, and as a parent, I love it. I see positives for all of the reasons you stated. I know several teachers, and they state the same positives that you do. Our district toyed with the thought of returning to daily scheduling and it was frightening to the teachers, parents and students.

Another aside as a parent, college is block scheduling. It's great preparation for the kids to learn the rythem of homework, projects and test study when you don't have class every day. Also mix in the EC's and the timing becomes even more important.

Yes, you do have eight classes instead of seven, but I really don't see it having much impact. Most kids see it as an opportunity to take an extra elective. We do have kids that graduate early - about 50 out of 631 at graduation last year. Most of those students are heading to local community colleges. A few with high GPA's will head to area state colleges. Most in high school will do what my son did and graduate with more than the minimum because they want to be with their classmates for their senior year. Also, most I've talked to feel their college applications would not be strong enough without that senior year.

By Mph (Mph) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 10:56 am: Edit

Does anyone know how the elite colleges view block scheduling as it relates to application strength? I suppose arguments can be made to support both types of scheduling as being the most challenging or best for preping kids for big school.

By Celebrian23 (Celebrian23) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 11:22 am: Edit

I don't think it's seen as a negative or positive to colleges except when a student can't take the ap's they want becuase of it

By Mom60 (Mom60) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 12:00 pm: Edit

Our school has 4 X 4 block scheduling. As a parent I did not like the idea and sent my child to a private school for 9th grade. She did not like the private so went back to the public for 10th. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the block and my D loved it. For all the reasons that DMD77 stated.
I think the problems I now have with the block are more scheduling issues then anything else. Due to budget issues after freshman year you are only guaranteed 3 classes a term unless you do a team sport.
Jr year D had 2 AP's in the spring. They did have a problem finishing up on the material before the exams. But the real problem was that both classes were difficult subjects and she had two of the worst teachers she has had in high school.
This year we are hoping to resolve her schedule conflict. She picked up her schedule yesterday and they have given her all her AP courses second semester and a light load in the fall. By giving her AP Spanish in the spring it will be 1 whole year since she finished spanish jr year till when she begins again senior year.

By Celebrian23 (Celebrian23) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 12:07 pm: Edit

Were getting some interesting discussion, to the parents: do your children seem to like the block or would they prefer the standard schedule?

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 12:11 pm: Edit

Block Schedules and Student Performance on AP Examinations

AUTHOR: Robert Smith, Wayne J. Camara
Published: 1998

The instructional schedule does affect student grades on the four AP Examinations in this study after they have been adjusted for group differences in student ability. The results from this study generally suggest that students, on average, obtain higher AP grades when instruction is given over an entire year rather than in a semesterized block schedule format. These results are consistent across the four AP Examinations and are found on 15 of the 16 comparisons between year-long and semester block courses. The remaining results differ by examination and subject.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 12:23 pm: Edit

My son's middle school was on an alternating days block schedule and he didn't mind it.

However, my daughter's high school switched last year to a similiar schedule with all classes meeting on fridays. As a result, the amount of homework assigned at each class meeting skyrocketed and thursdays became a nightmare because teachers used the shorter days on fridays for tests. So, just about every friday she'd have 3-4 major tests to study for. She also found that it became harder to track down teachers if she needed to ask questions or get extra help than when she saw them every day. She really loved when all of her classes met every day on a traditional schedule - she felt that it was easier to concentrate, the teachers assigned less busy work during class time, and the day went faster.

My issue with a 4X4 schedule is that there's the potential for students to forget much of what they learn in classes like math, English and languages because of the amount of time between when classes are taken. Some of my daughter's friends, for instance, at our 4X4 schedule public school have gone as long as a year in between math, language and English classes. Some of them complain that it's hard to remember and build upon the skills they learned a year ago. Of course, not all 4X4 schools may have the same budget problems as this school which have really limited course offerings.

By Originaloog (Originaloog) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 12:26 pm: Edit

Both our son and I loved the blok schedule. First, it greatly simplified homework on nites that there were evening concerts, plays or athletic events. Students were able to do them the night before. And he never had more than 4 hw assignments due the following day.

Secondly, it gave the teachers much greater flexibility in lesson planning. The could easily incorporate quizzes, labs, homework review, group projets into the 2 hour class block.

Third, less time wasted between classes.

Fourth, allowed for an extra half class such as lunchie chorus or lunchie band.

Finally, it prepared the students for 1-1/2 hour classes that are more common in college. My son's friends in college often mentioned this. We all know that a typical college day will have only 2-4 class sections scheduled. The block system generally models this.

Finally, I cant imagine my son bringing home 7 or 8 text books and class notebooks in order to complete hw assignments for the next day!

In summary, hooray for block scheduling!!!!!

By Demingy (Demingy) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 12:43 pm: Edit

I loved it when we switched to block scheduling in high school (my class started high school the year after they had implemented it). Our school was different in that most of our classes were a year long (so we didn't switch too many classes between semesters) except Health/PE alternated semesters and Economics/Psychology alternated semesters. I feel that the block scheduling (when done right) can help students acclimate to the way most colleges are set up and it does allow room for more classes overall.

As an example of my experience, say I had English, Health (semester 1) or PE (semester 2), Accounting, and Physics on Monday/Wednesday/Friday---then Algebra, Office Occupations, Economics (semester 1) or Psychology (semester 2), and History on Tuesday/Thursday. Then the following week I'd have the MWF classes on T/Th and my T/Th classes on MWF.

I really liked it for all of the reasons that Dmd77 stated above (including the fewer textbooks/supplies per day). Especially the fact that we had more time per class so we covered a lot of material. In my college algebra we covered a bunch of trigonometry since there was time at the end of the semester and in my Trig/Pre-calc class we covered calculus at the end of the semester.

I was also able to take a college course during school and I would only miss one class from each block but on alternating weeks, so I didn't have to self study for those classes nearly as much and didn't miss as much class time.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 01:52 pm: Edit

Celebrian, my son liked it. His hs was on semesters, but now, two high schools in our district are on trimesters, and neither one of us would have had anything to do with that. Trimesters combined with block scheduling produced an inconsistent and confusing situation. Son had friends at those schools that complained about trimesters but liked the block scheduling.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 01:58 pm: Edit

The problem with APs I mentioned is that if an AP class is in the fall, then the student has 4-5 months before the exam because they have a whole new schedule in the spring ?4X4

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 02:14 pm: Edit

And if the block is in the spring, how do students get ready for AP by early May? The semester format is the same as for college, but college courses do not give exams several months after the course has ended.

Our hs is switching to block scheduling after next year (won't affect S). I'd personally prefer the alternate blocks throughout the year. It allows for longer periods without the drawbacks of the semester format.

Many parents in my hs endorse block scheduling but I've read concerns from teachers who say that the total amount of time in a class is much reduced; that if there is a holiday or some unscheduled down time, a whole week can go by without a class in a subject, that there is not enough time for review in the spring for classes in the fall, and enough time in the spring to prepare students for the AP in May,and that a whole 6 months may elapse before students encounter the subject again.

By Mph (Mph) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 05:00 pm: Edit

My understanding of the study Marite cited is that there is no signif diff betw fall and spring offerings regarding the AP scores. The only diff (.31 point) was found betw year long courses vs. semester block scheds. My S has had blk sched for 3+ yrs and has had no probs with retaining knowledge from the previous year.The one exception is in Spanish where the first 3 weeks are spent bringing everyone up to speed from 8 months prior. His teachers do a great job preping for AP in the spring for the fall students. I think the scheduling issue really becomes one of how it is administered within each school. If it is done right, works great with some tweeking, if not , yuk.

By Kjofkw (Kjofkw) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 12:27 am: Edit

My s. had conventional scheduling (7) 45 min. periods, with a 20 min. "slop" time in the middle of the day). The extra time was used in various ways. AP sciences used some days for extended labs. Other days were used for meetings or EC's. Sometimes it was just a study hall, or an extended lunch.

My d. originally had 4x4 block scheduling. She liked the longer classes, fewer finals at a time (although more frequent tests), and fewer books to carry.

I didn't like it at all. In some of the comments above, it seemed the majority of benefits were for the teachers, not necessarily for the student (although I know it can also be argued that what benefits the teacher ultimately benefits the student). My main reasons include:

1. Some subjects went far too fast, most notably math. Most math instruction typically requires the introduction of a new concept, followed by practice (homework). It just doesn't work well with longer classes, and a condensed time frame -- especially for those students who may need a bit more time to fully understand the subject matter.

2. We saw many teachers filling in the extra time with movies, or even open study time. That was great to do homework, but in effect it shortened "quality" teaching or learning time . They just couldn't keep the student's attention for 90 minutes, so they added "variety", but also a lot of "filler" imo.

3. There can be a problem with SAT, ACT, or AP coordination. In my d's school, Algebra II, for example is not typically taught until Jr. year (except for the very advanced math students). That won't help for PSAT prep. - especially if you are not scheduled until the spring semester of your Junior year! If you have a fall AP class, you will probably forget some of the subject matter by the time the test is given. If you have a spring AP class, there is often no possible way to cover the material before early May. Her school sometimes solved this problem by making many AP and science courses 1 1/2 sememsters ( or 3 quarters) long. That opened a free quarter for some fun classes (art, choir, etc.), but it also reduced the actual number of possible classes. I originally thought she would be taking 8 classes a year, but because so many classes were 3 quarters, it in effect became 7 classes and a fun quarter, or sometimes even 6 total classes per year.

4. Languages are a problem. However, her school scheduled all languages so that they were continuous. No one started a language until spring quarter, for example, and all level II of languages automatically were scheduled in the following fall quarter. On the plus side, this allowed a student to take 2 languages during their 4 years or to double up on a math subject to move through more quickly.

5. Class selection for the following year must be filled out in late Feb. or early March. By then, many students have only completed half their classes. It is difficult to know if they are even interested in a subject enough to take the next level, or in the case of tracked subjects (English, math, etc.), what level they should be taking.

I think the modified block schedule (A/B days) solve a lot of the above problems we found w/ a 4x4 block schedule.

By Fendergirl (Fendergirl) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 12:58 am: Edit

my high school never had block scheduling, but i dont understand what you people mean by saying your kids take 6 or 7 courses a year rather than 8 with block schedules?

my senior year i took

research paper - writing
preschool program
spanish 4
italian converstion
computer graphics

and still managed to have a study hall here and there.

so that's 9 courses that I took throughout my senior year.. i had friends who had block scheduling in their school, and they were constantly working on things since their class met twice as long as ours, they had twice as much homework in the same class that i had, as they did twice as much per day. i managed to get good grades in all of my classes, participate in some clubs, do a sport, and work a job.. and it wasn't a problem at all.

yes college is somewhat block scheduling as far as not having the class every day, but at my school classes are monday wednesday friday 50 minutes (eerily similar to the length of high school classes) or tuesday thursday for an hour and 15 minutes.(similar to block scheduling).. most classes rae offered either/or and you can decide which way you would like to take the course.. or just do it all at one time as a night class... i'm going into my senior year and to this day i still hate tuesday thursday courses. i dont like them because the material is covered much faster, assignments tend to be larger, and it just is a lot for me to work on. i try to take everything monday wednesday friday unless its an art course, which i'll schedule tuesday thursday since they are the same length regardless of day.

if my high school would have switched to block schedules, i'm about 90% sure i would have done much worse and not graduated with the grades that i did. they had given us a survey in junior high (9th grade) which asked things like what we thought of block scheduling and whatnot, and i believe they also sent the survey out to all of our parents, and they obviously didn't get a positive feedback about it, because to this day they still do not use block scheduling. i think standard scheduling works better in schools like mine because of all of the electives that we can take. they offer a good 20 art courses, which would be imposible if they had block scheduling, as well as lots of other types of courses.

By Kjofkw (Kjofkw) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 10:58 am: Edit


To explain the ability to only schedule 6-7 classes with a 4 x 4 block schedule (at least at my daughter's previous school):

The 4x4 block schedule "in general" meant 4 core classes per semester. There were 4 periods per day, each 90 minutes long. No open study halls were allowed. Most college prep classes are completed in one semester. For example, a student completes ALL of Algebra I the first semester and takes ALL of French I the second semester. This would allow one in theory to take 8 courses per year.

In reality, however, the teachers found they could not accomplish most AP courses or lab science courses in one semester, even with 90 minute classes, so the school made these classes 3 quarters long instead of the typical 2.

Most upper level students try to schedule at least one AP and one lab science per year (3 quarters each), so 6 quarters are used up for these 2 classes, leaving only 10 quarter slots left (to choose 5 other semester courses). The total core classes per year in this scenario would be 7.

If you are lucky enough to schedule 2 AP courses and a lab science in one year, 9 quarters are filled, leaving only 7 quarters left (to choose 3 other semester courses, and a left-over quarter for a fun elective). Plus, since it was a religious school, 1 semester was automatically scheduled for religion classes, thus reducing choices even more. (I realize this is high priority for many families, but I think colleges largly ignore religion courses).

It was primarily due to the 3-quarter classes which filled up more of your time, that the choices are so reduced.

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 11:25 am: Edit

Some school districts around here tried block scheduling, but I don't really know any that are currently doing it. Most went back to traditional schedule. The biggest concern noted was continuity. Students studying certain courses (most notably foreign languages and math) did better when the courses were continuous for the full year. Even other courses e.g. Chemistry where Algebra II is a prereq were better learned if Algebra II was a full year prior. Another issue became the interruptions for state mastery tests in 10th grade (our state has required them for years, NCLB will require them). These tests are administered state wide in the other options...thus making a decided interruption in the instruction (tests are each two hours long in five subject a day for five days). These tests are not administered in the fall semester creating an inequity in the number of instrucional hours. And as another poster pointed out...things like Algebra II which are best completed before the SAT take had two problems..either not fresh because done in fall semester, or not as complete in the spring semester. Some districts also found difficulty in providing enough sections of course for all students requesting courses, thus making course sequences a bit screwed up. Of course, this could have been due to inadequate preparation for implementing block scheduling.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 11:54 am: Edit

Our school will start implementing 4X4 block scheduling next year. My S will not be affected so I have not been as involved in expressing concerns as I otherwise would have.
In our school, a student takes either AP-Calculus BC or AB, it's not one after the other, so the loss of instruction time will be keenly felt by those taking BC-Calc which covers more materials than AB.
As well, the AP-sciences classes are already double period as per AP regulations, so shortening their length to a semester will severely reduce instruction time in these classes.
We've been told that there will be review for the courses taken in the fall, but I have no idea how students are going to fit review sessions into their schedules even if the review sessions are held after school. ECs begin right after school, and on two days a week, teachers are not available owing to attending meetings or development programs. So.... I won't be around to see the results of yet another experiment.

By Fendergirl (Fendergirl) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 01:31 pm: Edit

i still don't agree with it. i think courses such as math should be a full year long, not half the year. its more likely to stick in your head if you are constantly working on it, not doing it for half a year and then not again for another six months. to me that seems very dumb.

for example, if someone had trig first semester of 11th grade, and doesnt have calc until second semester of 12th grade, that is a full year lapse between math courses. to me, this system is seriously flawed. maybe a student who is very good at math would have no problem with this, but for people who have troubles, making them take a full year break from math is not helping them learn.

i just don't understand, and I doubt i ever will, how this method improves student learning. it may be more efficient for teachers, but as far as students are concerned, it seems to me as though they are at a loss. not only because of the lapse between relevant courses, but also in the choices of electives that are offered. i feel that the school districts should be thinking about the kids, and their learning.. not what is more convenient for the teachers. the amount of money that is paid to school taxes and or private schools means, to me, that the students should be recieving the best education that they can. not what is more convenient.

By Originaloog (Originaloog) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 02:06 pm: Edit

A clarification on our hs's block schedule system. Each day consists of 4-1/2 blocks and the days alternate between A and B days. So each class meets every other day and most for the entire school year. So student can take up to 8-1/2 course credits that meet every other day. Therfore there is no problem with AP exams and yes, there an be 9 finals required in June.

For seniors, finals are optional if they have a 90+ average. Our son worked a bit extra the fourth marking period to get his Modern Lit average up to 91 thus avoiding finals altogether.

By Fendergirl (Fendergirl) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 03:04 pm: Edit

also at our high school, we had no finals regardless of average. we had taken them but they passed a rule nomore finals (unless a teacher decides to give one as a final test) for any one, in any grade. which i think is fine by me, i never liked finals during junior high or high school :) all they are is cram-fests. it does concern me though for the younger kids who will be going into college having never taken a final.

By Alwaysamom (Alwaysamom) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 03:16 pm: Edit

Our children have been at schools with each system of scheduling. I, and all of my kids, preferred the block scheduling system. It allows for more intense study of the four subjects which are being taken at one given time. No study halls are allowed (I always found these a colossal waste of time anyway). The continuity never seemed to be an issue at our schools. In fact, one huge benefit of block scheduling is fulfilling pre-reqs for various courses one semester and being able to take the next left the following semester, rather than waiting an entire year.

Someone mentioned the concern about missing certain classes because of holidays? That didn't happen at our schools because what they did was assign day one/day two blocking so that if you happened to have a long weekend with Monday off, you simply started the Monday classes (day one) when you returned on Tuesday.

When we lived in Toronto, almost all school boards in the province switched to block scheduling and they continue to use various versions of it with much success.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 05:21 pm: Edit

Fendergirl: there are many ways that students can maintain the knowledge from one subject even if they're not taking that subject. For example, if a student takes calc one semester and physics the next, she'll be using that calc in the physics courses. Many block schedules do put math-intensive subjects--like chem and physics--in opposite the math courses. Also, many schools use the format to provide year-long, slower-paced courses in math for the students who benefit from such courses--typically those who struggle with math. Those who find it easy usually take more math courses than the minimum.

By Txtaximom (Txtaximom) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 12:43 am: Edit

We have 4 x 4 block scheduling and neither of my sonslike this program. One just graduated, one graduates this year, both have been on block scheduling since freshman year.

As was cited above, there can be huge amounts of time between courses that are taken sequentially. Languages and math classes in particular. Spanish I fall of the freshman year to be followed by Spanish II spring of the sophomore year is not helpful. We have students that have to take state or standardized (PSAT)testing at particular times, and they are not enrolled in core subjects that semester. This is a major problem for the kids in our high school that are marginal.

The students at our school do not fare as well on the AP exams when their class ends in December and they must take the class in May. (There are other factors at work here, but this is one)

Extra curriculars (band, athletics, journalism) now take up an inordinate amount of the schedule. Band and athletic students must take two blocks, one each semester, in order to participate.

Most of the classes do not teach 90 minutes. They teach 45 and give 45 for homework. Others teach 4 days and show movies on Fridays.

It is costing our district salary dollars because the high school teachers receive 1.5 hour a day "planning" while the rest of the district teachers receive 45 min. Many teachers leave campus during this time to do personal business. Some come in late or leave early if they have 1st or 4th block off. They are on the clock when they do this.(I realize that this is not necessarily a problem elsewhere)

My son's particular pet peeves: not using the entire classroom time effectively, the gap between sequential classes, and the gap before the AP tests.

Last year there was one test section of A/B block scheduling where the classes are taught all year. US History AP and English III AP were paired together. My son found this much more effective, and his AP scores were higher than the kids that took the classes seperately. Sadly, we do not have a teacher that will teach the A/B block this year.

While the accelerated block scheduling does mirror college scheduling, colleges do not schedule final exams four months after the conclusion of the class. If the AP service would conduct exams in December, it would make accelerated block more appealing.

And one last aside, for children transferring mid-year--in or out--it is a nightmare.

I guess this is one of those Your mileage may vary issues. I agree that there are just as many counter-arguments in favor of the 4 x 4.

By Parentofteen (Parentofteen) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 08:03 pm: Edit

I have just returned to teaching high school after being out for eighteen years. The school has been on 4 x 4 block scheduling for about five years now. As a teacher who taught on traditional scheduling many years ago, I can see what block is all about. It is simply a way to appease the teachers. Yes, my job is far simpler than it was back in the 1980s. I actually have a 90 minute planning period that runs into a 45 minute lunch period! How insane is that? I would almost feel guilty about the situation except for the fact that I utilize every minute of my planning to its fullest.

Additionally, I see that the 4 x 4 block is designed solely to help the weaker student. It allows a student who fails a required course in the fall to simply repeat it in the spring of the same school year. We are still in the mode of trying to make everyone succeed in America - even if the student did not actually do his or her part to deserve that success.

My biggest complaint as a foreign language teacher is what someone else mentioned earlier. Sometimes my students will not get to take their Spanish courses consecutively. They may have to wait a semester or even two between levels of foreign language. So much is lost that we must spend lots of time reviewing at the beginning of the course, and then, we only have one semester to cover it all in the first place! Furthermore, a class may last 90 minutes, but a typical student's attention span is only a fraction of that. Only so many new concepts can be introduced and expected to be absorbed within one class session. Students on block are being cheated of a good background in any core subject. They are probably getting a half course; yet, it is being called a full course.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 11:56 am: Edit

I'm noticing that most of the dissent has to do with the 4x4 block scheduling with different classes in Fall vs Spring, and it seems that most of us that like block scheduling are really referring to the modified block scheduling that has most classes year round.

I can see where the "standard" block scheduling would be detrimental to the students, especially regarding AP testing and sequencial classes. But, I will still hold to my support of the modified block scheduling because these aren't problems that occur with modified block.

Fendergirl, I'm a little confused about your school. It sounds like you guys have somewhat of a modified block with M,W,F classes and T,Th classes. It's different from block scheduling in that your classes are year round, but it sounds pretty similar to modified block scheduling-with the exception of set days of the week vs. alternating A/B days.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 11:59 am: Edit

I would definitely support the modified block scheduling. Unfortunately, our hs is going for the 4x4.

By Parentofteen (Parentofteen) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 05:14 pm: Edit

As for the APs taught on the 4 x 4 block in our system, these courses are only taught in the spring semester since AP exams are only offered in May. The prerequisite courses for the APs are usually taught in the fall. Our students are limited to four APs per year due to 4 x 4 scheduling.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 05:33 pm: Edit


How does the school cover AP-Calculus BC in the time allowed? In our school, the second semester starts in mid-January and includes one week Spring break in April.

By Mehere (Mehere) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 06:49 pm: Edit

what is block shedule?

By Katwkittens (Katwkittens) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 08:44 am: Edit

Our district's block is the 4 x 4 and APs are offered both fall and spring. So no cap on the APs, just limited by teacher availability. AP CAlc BC is in the spring with the prereq being AP CAlc AB in the fall. Son thought it was repetitive but district's requirement, so that's what he did.

And yes, a modified block would have been so much more acceptable. At open house (earlier this week) AP English teacher (12th) said last year (first year of block) only 5 students sat for the exam out of 100+. Only 1 passed with a 3 or higher. Previously, he had at least 85+ students take it, for the past 13 years with a pass rate of at least 90% of those taking it. I know the sciences, math and history suffered a much worse fate.

It has certainly put a cap on AP enrollment through self-selection. Son's AP Calc has only 13 students for a very large school, and AP Stats has 8.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 10:12 am: Edit

Katwkittens, the next step for APs at your school will be dropping APs because they can't justify making a teacher available for classes less than 15.

Parentofteen is making the same point I made earlier, block scheduling was only instituted after the state toughened graduation requirements - it's more about giving weaker students more opportunities to meet requirements than it is about enrichment for stronger and average students.

I'm sure other systems are different, but it's sad here.

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