Block Scheduling

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Why are we changing to a 4x4 schedule?

Benefits for students include:

  • Reduction in the number of courses taken each semester means students have fewer classes to prepare for each night, fewer books and materials to manage, more individualized attention from the teacher.
  • When students attend seven relatively short classes in different subjects every day, instruction can become fragmented; longer class periods give students more time to think and engage in active learning.
  • A schedule with one relatively short period after another can create a hectic, assembly-line environment;
  • Teachers benefit from more useable instructional time each day because less time is lost with beginning and ending classes.
  • Increase in the number of classes taken each year means students can take more electives and earn more credits each year.
  • If a student is absent, s/he has fewer courses requiring make-up work.
  • Fewer class changes in a day mean less change for disruption and discipline problems at school.
  • Fewer students to teach in a day means teachers can get to know their students better and provide more individualized instruction.
  • If a student fails a required class, Block Scheduling allows the student to repeat the class the next semester and not delay progress toward graduation.

Links for More Information
Around the Block: The Benefits and Challenges of Block Scheduling

CRLS StudentsWill counselors recommend courses for both 1st and 2nd semesters?
Yes, the student’s schedule will be determined for an entire year just as it is now. This will be done well before the beginning of the school year. There will still be opportunities to add/drop courses during the course of the school year, but the cut-off dates will be much earlier than they are now due to the new schedule.

If students take a course in, for example, math and then skip a semester before taking math again, isn’t more review time required because a semester has lapsed?
Research shows that the loss in content retention that will occur under this schedule will not be significantly different from what students lose over summer. Furthermore, longer, more concentrated classes greatly shorten catch-up time. The DOE website says that the use of double period labs for science courses is a common variation on the standard 50-minute schedule. “Such variations in schedules allow for in-depth learning with different instructional strategies such as simulations, group projects, and debates”. Research has shown that this type of instruction improves student retention rates.

Students will miss twice as much work when they are absent. What can be done to ameliorate this problem?
Many teachers find it easier, not harder, for students to get caught up in the block model because there is more time to meet with a student during the longer class period once s/he returns to school. Techniques such as pairing “study buddies” or instituting academic support centers where students can get caught up have proved successful at high schools using the block (Nashoba Valley Regional High School, Bolton, MA). At CRLS improved internet access to homework assignments (see question #11) will help. Also, students will have make-up work in only 4 courses.

Won’t teachers who have been teaching year-long courses for many years have trouble making the adjustment to semester-long courses?
Teachers are presently getting the professional development that will enable them to make the transition to a 4X4 block. In one study, a science teacher reported that block scheduling “forces teachers to become better at planning, presenting, and reviewing lessons and concepts.”

Can students survive a class that lasts 85 minutes or more? Won't they become bored and tune out? Won’t learning disabled and Special Education students find 85-minute periods difficult?
“This would be true if teachers only lecture, but a longer period ‘kills the lecture method.’ Students say the schedule has forced the teachers to become more creative in the classroom. (Willis, p. 3) Because the longer period facilitates more engaging teaching techniques, students and teachers should find the day goes faster.”

Will the block schedule exacerbate difficulties for struggling teachers?
In many ways, block scheduling can make a struggling teacher’s ability to manage his or her responsibilities much easier. Many studies have shown that school climate improves as a result of moving to a block. Additionally, because teachers will have to balance fewer students and classes each day, the load will become more manageable.

Students at Science ClassWhat is being done to prepare students for the block schedule?
Arrangements are being made for CRLS students to meet with other students who are currently in a block schedule to discuss concerns at a special assembly hosted by CRLS student government representatives. Extended homerooms are planned for Jan. 13th and Jan. 28th during which students will ask questions about the block schedule and other issues of concern (Jan.13), then receive the answers and have a discussion period (Jan. 28). Two simulation days are planned in April when we will actually use a block schedule for the entire school day.

How will current juniors be assisted in selecting courses for first semester next year that will be most advantageous for college admissions?
Because many high schools have changed to a block schedule in recent years, the Common Application form used by most colleges and universities now asks if the applicant’s high school has a block schedule, and also asks the applicant to list the courses s/he will be taking for the entire year. Next year courses will be prioritized by academic importance so that all students’ schedules can have a balance of more difficult academic classes and less difficult electives because most classes will be offered both semesters.

Can parents be informed about recommended ways for teachers to break up the 85-minute block with various kinds of teaching strategies?
The strategies teachers use will be derived in part from our new Student 
Learning Expectations for reading, writing, speaking, and problem solving, 
and also from an excellent manual we’ve been using for professional development titled How to Manage Instruction in the Block. Some of the strategies include:

  • Processing learning at various “learning stations” within the classroom
  • Collaborative or independent work on “authentic assignments” that encourage students to use their own interests and academic strengths to approach real world problems and questions
  • Journals that help students summarize what they’ve learned and reflect on its potential use
  • Technology as both a learning tool and a performance tool
  • Responding to, generating, and creating a sequence of questions that collectively lead to critical thinking and deeper understanding
  • Participation in discussions structured in a variety of ways to explore important content and ideas: Socratic Seminars, debates, jigsaws, reciprocal teaching, etc.

Internet access to teachers’ homework assignments will be important next year when students are absent. Will such access be improved?
A number of CRLS teachers utilize a variety of options to post assignments and other information. The district’s MIS Department has been evaluating options to increase teacher participation in posting this information online by making the process as easy and efficient as possible. The CRLS web site is being redesigned to allow each teacher to have one or more pages that will be easy to update. Teachers will be informed of the tools available to post
their information online. Training and ongoing support will be provided to maximize participation.

Will the block schedule affect Advanced Placement students’ preparedness for AP exams if a semester lapses after they’ve taken a fall semester AP course, or if they haven’t covered enough curriculum in time for the AP exam spring semester?
For both fall and spring AP classes there will be additional class time (review for fall AP students and enrichment for spring AP students) to ensure that students have covered all required curriculum and that the material is fresh in their minds.

Will graduation requirements change with the new schedule?
No, they will remain the same.

What will be done to train newly hired teachers who have not taught in a block before?
Although it won’t be a requirement, we will be looking to hire new teachers who have experience teaching in a block schedule. We will also continue professional development next year for both new and returning teachers to impart the skills required to successfully teach in the longer block.

How will the AVID (Achievement Via Individual Determination)
 Program fit into the block schedule?
AVID is a course designed to help motivated students who want to go college develop the skills necessary for academic success. AVID students are required to take Honors Courses throughout their careers at CRLS and are strongly encouraged to take AP courses during their Junior and Senior years. Participating students take an AVID course every other day as well as take part in other AVID activities. The goal of AVID is to help students get into the college of their choice as well as become successful members of their communities. We will be entering our fourth year at CRLS with AVID next year.

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