The Effects of Block Scheduling on Student Achievement
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United States High School Education
Secondary schools in the United States play a very diverse role in the students’ social life (Faircloth & Hamm, 2005). The highs schools develop the cognitive capabilities of the students and are judged according to how well the students perform in the areas of reading, mathematics, other computational subjects, and the conceptual topics (Maloy & Seidman, 1999, p. 23). The high schools are also given considerable responsibility for developing attitudes, expectations, and skills that will prepare the students for adult social life and their future work schedules. The major role of the United States high schools is not limited to either cognitive instruction or socialization alone (Donaldson, 1991, p. 38).
Further, the current high school era in the United States separate the students into their social strata that will determine or restrict their social or occupational opportunities. The students often include African Americans, Asians, Europeans (Madhere, 1997, p. 137), and other bilingual students (Faltis, 1993, p. 136). The high schools perform valuation functions by providing certificates indicating that the students have accomplished their academic requirements. Also, the United States high schools perform their custodial function of by taking control of the students within the school premises (Tobin & Sprague, 2000, p. 177). In short, the adolescent person entering the high school life must be mentally, physically, morally (Cullinan & Sabornie, 2004), and emotionally prepared to tackle all academic requirements of the school. In fact, the students should do their utmost to graduate with flying colors. These flying colors could be in the field of sports like basketball, soccer, football, baseball, track and field(Schafer, 2003). Also, the flying colors could be in the field of academics by doing more than they could muster to be the valedictorian of the class or simply one of the top students (Kelly, 1979, p. 15).
Also, high school life is full of criticism. The high school students would talk about their favorite teachers (Foote, Vermette, Wisniewski, Agnello & Pagano, 2000, p. 128). They would also spread rumors of some teachers who do not fit the teacher roles (Phillips & Barrow, 2006). These high school students give varying reasons for their classroom environment as well as the environment inside the school premises (Allen & Ashbaker, 2004). Most of the students pick a person as their favorite teacher because he or she cares about them. Many of the students feel that their favorite teachers are doing their best to make the students’ stay in school very comfortable enough to digest the heavy lessons of the day (Morrell & Collatos, 2002). The students believe their favorite teachers are those that push them to go over their physical, mental and emotional ability in order to overcome the day to day classroom requirements. These classroom requirements come in the form of regular quizzes, attendance, group activities, exams, major examinations, projects and many other teacher imposed high school goals (Grant, 2003, p. 3).
In addition, a typical day in a high school class is focused on mathematical problems. Students are given some geometry problems to solve. The teacher first shows a model problem and the procedures on how to arrive at the right answer. Then, the teacher gives the class some exercises in order to hone their geometry skills (Moni, Van Kraayenoord & Baker, 2003). The teacher then gives quizzes or exams to determine who among the entire class are the bright ones, the one with low intelligence and the average students in the class (Maloy & Seidman, 1999, p. 25). The teacher gives grades to the students based on the results of their quizzes, exams, attendance, projects, assignments and other requirements. This is the typical high school classroom day (Chinnappan & Lawson, 1994, p. 61).
Also, the primary responsibility of the educators in the United States high school system is to provide the opportunities for their students to make connections between school and work (Singer, 2003, p. 35). Thus, the school program should be geared towards work based learning programs. One such program is the computer class (Erb, 2005). It gives the students the needed requirement to finish his or her job responsibility in the work place at a much faster paced with the end in mind of connecting quality with work output (Spaulding et al., 1938, p. 8.). This is main purpose of White Plains High School. In 1993 alone, the Westchester Education Coalition surveyed eighteen business establishments in the community (Power, 2003). The survey showed that the business would hire the high school graduates who had school programs preparing them to work at companies. A company would surely not hire a new applicant who does not know how to use the word, excel and powerpoint computer programs if another applicant for the same position has finished high school where computer classes are a must (Rhoder & French, 1999, p. 534).
Plus, the National Service Learning Clearing -House has defined service learning as “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities”. Through this approach, students eagerly participate in service activities that simultaneously benefit the community and link to the curriculum, thus providing the context for real –life applications of learning (Gresham, Watson & Skinner, 2001, p. 156). For example, students might conduct a health fair focusing on the dangers of drug abuse after studying the topic in health class; build and donate benches for a local part as part of a woodworking class; or collect oral histories from local veterans in connection with social studies and English classes and publish them in a text for the local community library (Dymond, Renzaglia & Chun, 2007).
The case study above had focused on an urban high school, Highland School (a pseudonym), in large city. The school serves Grades nine to twelve. It has an enrollment of over eight hundred seventy students. It also has under its fold over sixty faculty and staff. The racial composition of the study body is composed of ninety eight percent African -American, .5 percent Asian, .8 percent Hispanic, .2 percent white, .and 4 percent belongs to other races. At the Highland School, over twenty one percent of the student population is engrossed in Individualized Education Programs or IEPs. This connotes a need for special education programming and services. Also, an additional sixty eight percent of the students are receiving food discounts and free lunch treats (Rice, 2006).
In addition, the average high school day has been organized under the BLOCK SCHEDULING system. The high school class last an average of eighty minutes each. The students are attending classes that average five a day. Each of the high school teachers are also obliged to teach an average of four periods a day. The school has been identified as needing plenty of improvement under established federal high school education guidelines (Rice, 2006).
The notion that students with disabilities have aright to the same buildings spaces, classroom activities, high school experiences, curricular content, classroom discussions, and general education content that their able bodied peers have has not yet been changed. The form this undertakes is worked out in each individual context. Shared leadership involves the school community in determining a vision, setting goals, problem solving, doing the day –to –day work, and celebrating successes (Fine, 2001, p. 133).
Also, the participants of the Salamanca conference undertook that the actions and interactions of individuals can have enormous transformative potential. It seems that the reforms implemented by social institutions are not only technical tasks. It also seems the commitment and goodwill of the people constituting society when conviction occurs Teachers can control the classroom learning environment (Blum, 1998, p. 77). One of the consistent tensions that teachers face flows from an accepted practice in the United States High School educational system. Basically, education can be described as teachers meeting a group of students at regular intervals scheduled each week. This is known as the classroom scenario. The teacher would be teaching four or five high school classes each day. The high school teacher is also responsible for an estimated one hundred to one hundred twenty five high school students (Boaler, 2002, p. 5). Many of the current high school programs are moving towards the block schedule type of educational program. This study shows that the block schedule systems is characterized by have fewer than normal classes that are being held for longer periods of time (Maloy & Seidman, 1999, p. 39)
At the same time, teachers are also responsible for each individual student in the class. They want every student to understand and learn, but motivating groups and inspiring individuals is not automatically same procedure (Marks & Jones, 2004). For, teaching to the group as a whole often leaves some students lagging behind or feeling unable to push ahead. Teaching individuals at their own pace is often logistically difficult when there is one teacher and an average of twenty students (Walsh, Sattes & Wiman, 2001, p. 547). Many times, the teaching process seems like a search for magical middle ground where the teachers can make sure that each high school student is successful while the other members of entire class continues to move forward (Grant, 2003, p. 29).
Even though it is not normally easy to think in these terms, a “teacher operates out of a kind of blind faith’’ that by consistently providing individuals and groups with the compelling experiences in and out of the classroom to improve their learning ability(Potter & Small, 1998, p. 383). This point of view builds on the predictable processes of stimulus and response. The high school students learn in a non –linear fashion as they try out new ideas and activities. Adolescent growth and development involves taking action, making mistakes, trying again, imitating others, and exploring under adult tutelage the issues that concern them and their communities (Nagle, 2001, p. 63).
Furthermore, what makes all this simultaneously interesting and perplexing is multiplying the complexities of each individual’s learning processes by the number of students in he classes. Looking at the high school students during a class session will impress upon the teachers that there is a mosaic of learning potentials available. Some of these high school students often learn at a different pace than the other class students. They make connections quickly, mentally vaulting from plateaus of understanding to peaks of learning to plateaus again. The other members of the class move more quickly or less in typical high school learning situations. Both the fast learners and the slow learners need varying combinations of experiences to forge new understandings (Hemmings, 2004, p. 51).
As high school class instructor, one very important part of his or her job would be to arrange and set in motion the opportunities for students to build connections that lead to learning. At the same time, there is now ay to avoid the tension between covering the curriculum and making sure everyone understands the unique high school learning process(Goldstein, Pon, Chiu & Ngan, 2003, p. 25). Simultaneously, there is no way to avoid the tension between covering the high school learning program and making sure all the students will be able learn as fast as they could. It is easy to be worried about doing everything right for each student. Sometimes you must make uncomfortable compromises between individual high school students and the group of classmates as a whole. The teacher may be forced to make uncomfortable adjustments in order to hasten the student’s learning speed(Jeffrey & Woods, 2003, p. 98). The continuous innovation of the learning process will create a dynamic environment that will lead to new learning and teaching approaches with the end in mind of successfully making both the students and the teachers in the class winners (Duncan, 2003, p. 37).
In another study, a high school student revealed that he had a strong fashion for reading. He would spend lots of time reading books of different interests including religion (Bellitto, 1996, p. 274), environmental issues (Gambro & Switzky, 1999, p. 15), sex education(Byers, Sears, Voyer, Thurlow, Cohen & Weaver, 2003), illegal drugs (Drapela, 2006), and geometry. This regular reading had increased his reading speed. This was a strain on the high school teacher. He forced John to decrease his reading speed to the average high school student’s reading speed. The teacher reacted in this manner because John finished his silent reading and SAT card completion tasks too fast. The teacher’s displeasure of John’s overshooting the teacher’s reading instructions resulted to the teacher classifying both verbally and actions as a rebellious student. Thus, John had to unwillingly obey the teacher’s instructions in order to pass the subject. This slowing down of his reading speed continued until he had graduated from High School.
This slowness continued until he had reached the working age. And, he found it difficult to remove this wrong reading style taught to him by his high school teacher (Nagle, 2001, p. 104).
The study entitled “Nation at Risk” reported that the failing schools in 1983 and the increasing prison population show loud and clear that many of our high schools have failed in terms of molding as possible law –abiding and upright persons as possible. The schools that have failed should be immediately renovated to bring a lesser prison statistics. The main goal of each high school is to prepare the students for their new and adult role in life (Duke, 1989, p. 17). There is simply no excuse for the most popular government in the world, the United States, to have such a large and fast –growing prison population.
In terms of high school block scheduling, the typical high school day could best involve four ninety minute periods based on the block scheduling principles established by the “Copernican Plan”. Typically, the first fifteen minutes each morning is dedicated to name roll call, announcements and introduction of the student team. The team sits in front of the class. All subject matters are presented by the student teams assigned for such purposes during the initial instruction period; as opposed to the typical teacher type lecture. This represents democracy in action, and where students come to class expected to have learned the topics of the day. The student and teacher interaction organize such information into a meaningful and usable context. Under such a plan the learning is largely a student activity. The teacher only moderates and guides the students on the right path(Barton & Levstik, 2004, p. 150). The teacher positively criticizes, encourages and compliments the students on their efforts in discussing the topics assigned to them (Cassel, 2001, p. 632.
In the block scheduling system, all the students in the class are assigned to different student teams. Each student team could have from three to a dozen team members. The groups will take turns discussing the book chapters or topics assigned to them for the entire semester by their teacher. Each student team group will elect a leader among themselves (Funk, 2002). Another member of the group will be assigned as team assistant team leader(Rice, 2006). They will be responsible for encouraging the other members of the group to actively contribute their share in the learning activity. Normally, the thirty minutes following the roll call and announcements, of the ninety minute block schedule, the student team will make the presentation of the instructions unit. Each and every team will have a suitable chance to make such a team presentation during the semester. The teacher acts as guide during the entire student activity. The teacher usually gives his or her own experience –based learning in order to augment the students as they learn by doing (Capel, Heilbronn, Leask, & Turner, 2004, p. 177).
The teacher’s role is very important (Potter, 2002, p. 99). The teacher will typically open the class session and introduce the team responsible for the presentation. It is critically important that the teacher personally oversee the student team’s presentation (Smyth & Shacklock, 1998, p. 77). The teacher clarifies areas that are missing or vague in the student teams’ presentation. Normally, this might take about twenty minutes of the ninety minute block schedule assigned for each class period (Kennedy & Morton, 1999, p. 57).
The next twenty minutes of the block schedule time would be allocated for student discussion under the tutelage of the student team leader and assistant team leader. The high school teacher guides the student team that they should focus squarely on the contents of the daily lesson (Sugrue, 1999, p. 1). However, the team members are allowed to include relationships with previous assignments and those planned for the future. Student team leaders may also ask individual students to explain parts of the prior presentation. The team leader can also ask the student audience for comments as a means to get discussion going (Kennedy & Morton, 1999, p. 57).
In addition, the six or seven period high school block schedule can be easily explained by offering alternative choices. One alternative would be to have a 75 -75 -30 plan , two 75 day terms in the fall and winter, followed by one thirty minute spring term. The 75 – 75 -30 plan was especially designed with the end in mind of caring for the ninth grade students. However, it is also adaptable to the lower grade levels. The alternate day block schedule is also another possibility. This may serve as a first step toward eventual implementation of the 75 -75 -30 plan (Cassel, 2001, p. 632.
There are other flexible block schedule plans. In Terms of the 75 -75 -30 Plan, Many students find it difficult to handle the transition from the middle school to high school. Some school districts report high rates of failure for ninth –grade students(Claybaugh, 2005). It has also been observed that many ninth graders have difficulty preparing for six or seven different classes each day. Such problems precipitated to the invention of the following schedule that addresses these needs of the students. The school year is divided into three blocks of time – two seventy -five day terms (fall and winter) and a thirty day spring term. During each seventy five day term the school day include three one hundred twelve minute block classes. It also includes one forty eight minute period. This remains constant for one hundred eighty days. There are twenty four minutes for students to have their lunch. The students are allocated only twelve minutes to prepare for class changes. These all total four hundred twenty minutes. It is highly recommended that students enroll in two academic subjects during each of the seventy –five day terms. Some of the subject electives that the students could choose include physical education, one full credit elective, or two half –credit electives (Cassel, 2001, p. 632.
In addition, each academic class is offered in double periods daily, as are physical education and full credit electives(“Should the Physical Education Grade Be Included in a High School Student’s GPA?,” 2001, p. 9). In addition, students may enroll in one singleton class. This class would meet for forty eight minutes daily for the entire school year. For example, in the fall a student assigned to a given instructional group might attend English for periods 1 and 2, physical education for periods 3 and 4, lunch and a singleton class such as band during the five /L period. This means singleton five with lunch periods allocated before and after the class. The singleton class could also include math or algebra for periods six or seven. During the winter term the same instruction group participates in a full –credit or two half –credit electives for periods 1 and 2, science for periods six and seven. A total of twelve minutes must be shorter or if more time for lunches or class changes, block classes could be reduced in length (Chen, and Mcgrath).
Further, the thirty day spring term would offer students the chance to study one or two subjects intensively. During the spring term students might choose to intensify and accelerate their studies in a favorite discipline. They could also indulge in repeating a failed course. The students could also enroll in two half –credit electives or enroll in one full credit elective. In addition, the students could also take part community service projects. Each block class taught during the seventy -five term provides eight thousand four hundred minutes of instruction. It also includes one hundred twelve minutes per day during the seventy -five day term program which approximates one hundred eighty traditional forty –seven minute class periods. A single period elective would meet for four thousand fifty minutes. This counts for one –half of a unit. One full –credit course taken during the spring term meets for eight thousand four hundred minutes five fifty six minute periods for thirty days. Or a student may prefer to devote the instructional time of the spring term to two half –credit electives. In addition, students continue to participate in one year engrossed in a singleton course. One fifty four minute period serves as a preparation time for teachers and allows for the teacher’s engagement in research(Taylor & Pearson, 2002, p. 361), study or early of students who have complied with their block schedule requirements (Chen, and Mcgrath).
Advantages of Block Schedule
There are many advantages of the block schedule high school classroom program. In terms of the seventy five – seventy five –thirty plan, one advantage is that it facilitates a variety in the use of instructional approaches. Because teachers are granted longer blocks of instructional time, they are encouraged to break away from over –reliance on lectures or discussions as the primary teaching method (Smyth & Shacklock, 1998, p. 154). A math teacher might deliver direct instruction for twenty -five minutes or so. The teacher can also review concepts in cooperative learning groups. He or she could also watch over the students in the computer lab for reinforcement with appropriate software and provide individual students with personalized subject reviews, practice or enrichment. All this can be done in the same block schedule (Wagner, 2000, p. 149).
Further, another advantage of block schedule is that the students see fewer teachers each term. In turn, teachers also see fewer students in each term. The teachers now have more time to develop rapport with their students and to identify the students’ strengths and weaknesses. The teachers can attend better to the needs of an estimated sixty to eighty high school students every class day(Bettie, 2003, p. 21). This would be a better statistics than to help the academic needs of around one hundred twenty to one hundred sixty high school students on a daily basis. In turn, the students must adjust less frequently to their teachers’ different teaching methods and classroom management strategies (Debray, Parson & Avila, 2003, p. 63)
Also, another advantage of block scheduling is that discipline problems are reduced in most high schools. A great number of the high school students are discharged into the hallways at the end of each period. This phenomenon creates a problem of supervision for high school administrators and the teachers as well (Dryfoos, 1998, p. 91). Many discipline problems happen during these class transition periods. Because classes change less frequently in the block schedule, there are fewer opportunities for student misbehavior (Butcher, 2004, p. 39).
Plus, another advantage is that instruction time is increased. Research has shown that a great deal of instructional time is lost in secondary classrooms. One study shows that instructional activities gobbled an average of thirty minutes of each fifty –five minute time period. Two factors that account for the increase in instructional time in this specific block schedule format. The most obvious is that there is less class passing time needed. If three class changes of four minutes each will be eliminated each day, an hour of instructional time is gained each high school week. More than a full week of instruction time is gained when this is multiplied by the thirty six high school week. Also, there are fewer time –consuming class beginnings and endings. Reducing the number of class beginnings and endings is most important for classes that require considerable time for setup and cleanup. This includes laboratory sciences, fine arts, technology classes, home economics and physical education (Fitzgerald, 1996, p. 20).
And, another advantage of block schedule is that teachers are able to focus on fewer subjects (Delamont & Galton, 1986, p. 155). Teachers have fewer preparations. Students have fewer homework assignments to juggle with each evening. The decrease in the subjects that the teachers have to prepare will clearly result to more quality in the topics discussed. The teachers have more time to research other resources. For example, the teacher can now have more time to verify if one author contradicts another author on one topic, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution versus God’s creation of man. In the same line, the students have lesser subjects to study for the day. This will lessen the students’ time to study other topics (Daniel, 2000, p. 298).
Furthermore, another advantage of block schedule is that summer school can be offered to all students at no additional cost to the students or the high school district. Many school districts charge tuition fees for summer school and require students to pay for transportation costs. Consequently, many low -income students who often need to attend summer school cannot do so. This plan provides the equivalent of a summer session as part of the regular school calendar. This pertains to the thirty day spring schedule. For, the spring session is within the time frame of standard teachers’ contracts. There are no major additional expenses that will be incurred by the high school district (Daniel, 2000, p. 298).
In addition, another advantage of the block schedule is that there are possibilities for acceleration during the regular high school year. Conceivably, the students can complete their three consecutive courses in one calendar year. One course could be taken during each of the three terms. The parents of the students will surely be happy if their offspring or offsprings will be accelerated to the next level. This acceleration brings pride to the family and specially makes the student feel very intelligent (Dorn, 1996, p. 23).
Also, another advantage of the block schedule is that the students can repeat a failed course during the regular high school year. In the traditional non –block high school schedule, students must wait until summer or the beginning of the next school year to repeat a failed class. Thus, during the second term, many students who discover that it is computationally impossible to pass a course stop working and become behavior problems in the community (Best, 2000, p. 1). The seventy -five to seventy -five to thirty plan permits two possibilities for repeating courses during the regular school year. This can be done during the winter term and during the end of the year spring. A student would appreciate the block schedule as a time saving device especially if he or she has failed in one or more of the subjects offered during the term (Dorn, 1996, p. 23).
Further, the block schedule will provide greater opportunities at risk high school students. The students could finish their courses like the English (Miller, 2004) and Mathematics classes in pairs. The pairing of subjects will make it possible to offer three opportunities during the regular school year for students in one term and English with the Social Sciences in another term (Ven, 1995, p. 153). Again, the students will save time with the implementation of the block schedule. Another example is having the seventy five to seventy five to thirty plan block schedule. It will be drafted to comply with the need for an actual high school in which many ninth grade students were failing in English and /or Mathematics to catch up with the rest of his or her peers (Feazell, 2004).
Also, one option that would be advantageous to high schools is to offer traditional summer school opportunities for remediation and acceleration. This could be done by placing the spring between the two class terms. This would give us a seventy –five to thirty to seventy –five plan. It’s three –week block class schedule would give a primary goal of facilitating the implementation of an outcomes –based high school educational program. The three -week block time would provide for fifteen days in every term for tutoring the students (Gardner, Nobel, Hessler, Yawn & Heron, 2007). This tutoring of students would provide fifteen days in every term for remediation for those who had not completed one or more courses successfully (Noell, Duhon, Gatti & Connell, 2002). This would give us a seventy five to fifteen to seventy five to fifteen plan (Canady & Rettig, 1993).
Another advantage of block schedule is the inclusion of other related block programs. The inclusion program at the Roosevelt High School in another block schedule research location is a good example. In this high school, team teaching aids greatly in including students with high –incidence disabilities in general education classrooms within the context of a block schedule. This was the unquestionable observation of the high school teachers who have shifted to the block schedule teaching strategy. The teachers identified two primary reasons why team teaching partnerships with a block schedule work so well. First, teachers can work together to examine current teaching practices and share the responsibility for modifying the curricula, which is necessitated by the change to a block schedule (Queen, 2000, p. 214).
For example, a general education math teacher noted that one inclusion issue is dealing with textbooks. Some kids just do not learn well from textbooks. The teachers are trying their best to modify the textbooks to be more high school student –friendly to resolve this learning issue. The very important question the block schedule teacher propagators bring to mind is “How can we cover this text material in the best way with these kids? That is the kind of thinking that many teachers are pondering on in our current generation and beyond. (Weller & Mcleskey, 2000, p. 209).
Further, block scheduling enhances quality. Many teachers believe that team taught classes has continued to succeed within a block schedule is that it allows for more quality enhancing teacher and student interactions. This presents more opportunities for teachers to get to know their students’ individual learning styles and personal interests in turn. A teacher having disabled students once stated that at first I thought eighty five minutes was going to be excessively long. On the contrary, it gave the teachers so much room to get around more with the individual students. This extra time brought by the block schedule advantageously translates into giving more assistance, intervention, modification, tips, and hints. It also helps the teachers to understand the modern problems the current crop of high school students have. And, some teachers think that many high school students enrolled in block scheduling feel the same way as the teachers on the advantages of block scheduling (Queen, 2000, p. 214).
In addition, the implementation of the block schedule must be complied with. This new high school schedule also imposes compulsorily on the high school teachers to examine the teaching strategies they used in team –taught inclusion classes. Teachers gradually recognized that lecturing to students for eighty five minutes would not be successful. Consequently, the teachers had to realize that the block schedule made to shift to another more responsive high school learning approach. The teachers would be more cooperative and embolden the students to participate more in classroom activities (Patterson, 2003, p. 568).
And, an example will clarify the advantage of block schedule over the traditional non –block schedule. For example, a general education English teacher observed that many high school classes were made available for students to get involved in class projects and to do different class activities. Going to a block schedule was a good motivator for change because many teachers were worried about what they had to do keep the high school class busy for the entire eighty five minutes. The teachers have gotten off a one horse show here. They have diversified a little bit and are doing a series of classroom learning activities in their eighty –five minutes. The students get the hands –on learning experiences that the activities using non –block scheduling would not provide because the traditional way of teaching is ground on lectures and writing down class lessons for the day (Patterson, 2003, p. 568).
The block schedule has given the teachers the much –needed leeway because it is a better teaching strategy than the non –block high school class schedule. Many students do not learn well under the traditional high school learning strategies. This is the reason for the remodeling of the high school classroom teaching environment to the more responsive and modern block schedule. Many teachers agreed that the block schedule allows the students to take two additional classes per semester. The extra block classes present students with disabilities with an opportunity to explore individual interests and talents overlooked or undeveloped in the past due to the time constraints brought about under the less challenging traditional high school classroom learning strategy (Ediger, 1998, p. 53).
Further, students with learning disabilities will benefit more from the block schedule program. Another teacher of students with learning disabilities professed that the block schedule has allowed the students to use something, being able to create something, being able to manipulate the information somehow is so much better than just simply keeping their eyes glued to the teacher while restlessly copying the day’s lessons from the blackboard. Thus, the block schedule allows the students in a more realistic as possible. The block schedule includes both the interactive and non –interactive lessons. This is what fancies the high school kids to eagerly enter the classroom premises (Ediger, 1998, p. 53)
And, many students with learning disabilities will stick to the block schedule. There are many students with learning disabilities do not have to give up as much now under the block schedule because there are eight blocks of class time in some high schools. He or she can choose the block schedule that he or she prefers. Before, a kid in a resource class had only five class choices to pick. The traditional high school learning required the study of English, Math, Science, History, and Whatever. Thus, there was lesser time for studying the elective subjects. The introduction of the block schedule has nicely given the students more time to focus on the elective subjects. A kid that has two resource classes under the block schedule can still have six periods that he or she can do other things with.
After tasting advantages of the block schedule, this group of students will definitely fight to hold on to the block schedule (Slavin, 1989, p. 25).
In addition, similarities between the traditional and the block schedule helped in accepting the block schedule. The high school teachers felt that a combination of things made the retention of the classroom lessons by the high school students less an issue than they had predicted after finishing one year with the block schedule. These same teachers recognized that team –teaching and the changes made in the way they present the lesson for the day in a team –taught classroom environment had aided much with the retention of the day’s class lessons. In addition, the teachers of the block scheduled high school classes allowed their students to take an extra class in either math or English. Second, teachers opined that presenting their high school students the chance to take an extra math or English class if remedial support is needed is one of the advantages of the block schedule (Slavin, 1989, p. 25).
The block schedule is characterized by infusion of class activities. There is no question that the students learn more under the block schedule’s team activities. The teachers can cover more class lessons under this type of class schedule. The teacher teaches based on the speed and ability of the students’ ability to absorb their lessons for the day. The teachers can increase the students’ learning capability and capacity by making the students write down the day’s topic. This is one of the secrets why the block schedule continues to be very successful in the high school learning environment. Retention is not a problem in this type of teaching strategy (Crocco, Faithfull & Schwartz, 2003).
In addition, the block schedule allows students access to formal support. The teachers of students with learning disabilities agree that as a result of implementing a block schedule allows their students to access formal resource supports remained the same. The teachers of the block scheduled students must provide their students with access to individualized support and instruction. The students should also have a structured study area and a time to work on their take -home assignments, and to take more time to make connections with their teachers. Many of the students need this bonus time to ask questions and be clarified on some topics that are too vague or difficult to absorb by themselves alone (Crocco, Faithfull & Schwartz, 2003).
Also, the block schedule allows excess time for deeper study. Another teacher announced that block scheduling has increased the need for resource time. However, some teacher do not believe it is a mistake for the high school students to think that the extra effect of the block schedule would be used to do their take -home assignments in the classroom. This would be tantamount to the classroom time not be maximized to the fullest. Some teachers firmly have kept their resource periods at the same time as their prior –block schedule classes. In short, the teacher and students should not use the extra time to waste. Many teachers have already maximized the entire eighty –five minute block period. One teacher in a block schedule explains her maximization plan by taking it as an opportunity to cover subjects thoroughly, to do more than just get the work done. The extra time is used to cover the subjects more thoroughly and meaningfully. The extra time is used to improve the quality and the quantity of each high school class discussion. The extra time is used to talk about what is and what is not working for the student (Barnhill, 2005).
Further, the block schedule increases the volume and quality of classroom -related work done. The new high school class schedule permits the teacher and his or her students to increase the volume and quality of the classroom drills. The teacher can use the extra time to sincerely say “let’s try again” for the few students who could not catch up with the rest of the class academically. Some teachers have added supplemental programs to the traditional classroom topics. The extra time is used to comply with the principle that practice makes perfect. For, it is true that experience is the best teacher (Barnhill, 2005).
And, this is the idea behind implementation of the high school laboratory experiments and the hands on computer lessons. The extra time literally removes the pressure cooker mentally of the teachers characterized by the traditional non –block high school class schedules. The extra time can be fruitfully used by the teachers to create a strong bond with the high school students. The teachers have more time to get to know his or her students and ask the students about their opinions, suggestion and recommendations on how to improve the classroom learning process. The teacher can use the extra time to learn the students’ interests outside the four walls of the classroom (Barnhill, 2005).
In general, many teachers believe that the block is more beneficial than the traditional non –block class schedule. Many of the teachers feel that implementing a block schedule may benefit the inclusion of students with high –incidence disabilities in general education classrooms. Many of the teachers commented that they could feel the way students with disabilities have been promoted to taking classes under the general education classrooms within a traditional six -period day tailored it nicely to return to the block schedule. Some high school block schedule teachers the block schedule has brought a stronger partnership and widened the comfort level between the teacher and the students (Lief, 2001).
For example, the Mayfield High School case proves that Block Schedule is a better high school classroom alternative. A study of the Mayfield High School class in Las Cruces in New Mexico has recently revised its high school curriculum from the traditional high school program to the new classroom teaching method known as the block schedule method (Stodden, Galloway & Stodden, 2003). The block schedule has currently on their sixth year of implementation. The change to the block schedule has resulted to obvious increases in the high school’s standardized test scores. The students have also increased their scores in the Advanced Placement or AP tests. The school’s failure rate has declined (Roderick, 1993, p. 103). Consequently, the discipline statistics of the high school has dramatically dropped. The Mayfield high school block schedule is arranged as a four by four schedule where the high school students take eight classes each school year. The block schedule allows the students to take four classes per semester. The Mayfield High School faculty members teach three classes and have one planning period. The classes are estimated to last around an estimated eighty seven minutes. The entire high school year consisting of two thousand three hundred students have a single common lunch period. The lunch period is scheduled between the second and third block schedule. (Hansen, Gutman & Smith, 2000, p. 209).
Also, the Tubman High School study proves Block schedule is the right classroom teaching strategy. In the Tubman High School study located in San Diego, California, the final component of the school -wide focus on literacy identified by the teachers was on the advantages of learning under the block schedule. The school requires the students to attend four classes per day for ninety minutes each. The traditional year long classes are completed in one semester or term. The students could prefer to take math in the fall and science in the spring. English for the ninth grade or tenth grade students was advantageously extended to cover a longer one year period. The same subjects were scheduled for ninety minutes per day. This is twice the instructional minutes that other students in the same high school district receive. The vast majority of the high school teachers under this school’s block schedule united to promote the block schedule to their high school students. One teacher in the school stated that the block schedule allows her to open her class with a read –aloud introduction. She then discusses the textbook or other reading assignments. At the same time, the same teacher finishes the laboratory exercises for the day. This new focus brought about by the new block schedule has a very obvious advantage of allowing the students a much longer time to read their assignments and read the science lessons for the day. (Fisher, 2001, p. 92).
Additionally, the block schedule is the right tool to solve problems in some subjects (Bullough, 1997, p. 13). Recommendations have been made to save the secondary physical education included the restructuring of the physical education time slot. The change was done by replacing exposure to activities and compliance with competence, responsibility and advertising the new physical education program both in 1987 as well as in 1992. Later, many of the high school teachers also replaced football with yoga and rollerblading. The teachers learned the ropes on how to maximize the new block school to make learning a more enjoyable and better learning environment. The block schedule in this school started with the concurrence of the high school administrators, the parents –teachers associations and the high school boards. Surely, this is a very good advantage of the block schedule program. (Doolittle, 2007).
However, the teachers and the high school administrators are important parts for the success of the block schedule. The true success of the block schedule on physical education classes is that the teachers and the school administrators must show the inquisitive public that the secondary physical education class has given the high school students master lifelong knowledge and skills that they need in order to survive in the community and in the world where the high school students live (Aaronsohn, 2003, p. 52). The teachers in this school impose on their high school students that they are primarily responsible for whatever academic grades that they have and the teacher only records their achievements gathered from quizzes, exams and other data. This is a very good advantage of the block schedule program (Doolittle, 2007).
Disadvantages of the Block Schedule
One disadvantage of the block schedule high school class program is planning (Stearns, 1993, p. 131). The teachers and the students have to adjust the change of classroom schedule. For example, a class held on a Wednesday will have its next class on a Monday. This would be quite stressful for both the teachers and the students. The long vacation day between Wednesday and Monday would increase the probability that the students will forget the prior lessons (Matthews, 2001, p. 8).
Further, another disadvantage of the block schedule is difficulty in tracking class related work (Foley, 1990, p. 101). One advantage of the block schedule is helping students who have difficulty keeping track of their books and materials needed for the class. The block schedule teacher has to adjust to having different classes each day (Cho, Hallfors & Sanchez, 2005). He or she has to handle different subjects on the same day. The teacher has to adjust to the different student personalities, temperaments or intelligence on each high school class day (Cross & Burney, 2005). Some of the teacher teaching on a Monday class would have problems of trying to remember what he or she taught on this same subject during the prior Wednesday class schedule. In the same light, many f the students have difficulty trying to keep track of their books and the materials they need for class (Wragg, 2001, p. 5).
Also, another disadvantage is that the block schedule may result in more forgetfulness than the traditional class schedule. Some of the high school students could easily forget their assignment or project deadlines (Smyth, 2003). Still, other students may not remember when their quizzes and exams are scheduled because of the change in the high school class program from the traditional non –block schedule to the new and more modern block schedule. Admittedly, the block schedule is very different from the traditional non –block high school class program. This is the observation of some of the teachers and students who have just been introduced to the block schedule high school classroom educational program. For, the students who have just introduced to the new program find it hard to remember the new block schedules. Clearly, another disadvantage is that the block schedule may result in more forgetfulness than the traditional class schedule (Tauber, 1999, p. 158).
In addition, another disadvantage is that some students and teachers are resistant to the transition to block schedule. The difficulty of both the students and their teacher in the transition from the traditional non –block schedule to the new block schedule is that the students are so used to the old non block schedule that they easily forget that everything in the class schedule has bee reorganized. One high school teacher showed disgust when a student brought the wrong set of books to class under the new block schedule. Worst, some students forgot that it was examination and quiz time because they had forgotten that the old class schedule had been scrapped. Just as the word traditional says, the students are used to the old ways of school life (Jansen, 2000, p. 53).
For, the kids have been used to the traditional non –block high school class curriculum for many years of their school life. It is truly hard for the kids. It is doubly hard for the teachers to explain and to work in a new class program. Many of the students and the teachers agree that they have trouble learning the new way of high school classroom life because it entails a new organizational setup. Also, the students and their mentors have to determine the new requirements in terms of the minimum communication skills needed under the revitalized block classroom schedule (Morgan, 1997, p. 109).
Also, another disadvantage of the Block Schedule is the increase in the high school absences. This is brought about because of the wide vacant hours between some subjects. Some of the restless students would decide to go home and join more time consuming activities where they would have fun. One education teacher admits that absences have escalated when the new block schedule was imposed. Some of the students feel that sitting out too long and staying quiet while waiting for the next class three or fours after the first class is not a good school management idea. Some students would prefer to have subjects that do not have very long vacant hours between subjects so that they could leave the school premises earlier. (Weller & Mcleskey, 2000, p. 209).
Transition from Traditional to Block Schedule
The advantages over the disadvantages of switching from the traditional non –block classroom activity to the new trend of block scheduling has made the transition to block schedule definitely beneficial both to the students and teachers as well. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages, the difficulty of some students and teacher to adapt to the new block schedule was only difficult on the initial transition phase. However, as the days drove on, the students and the teachers will easily leave behind the old ways and feel at home with the new block schedule. To combat this scenario of forgetfulness, the block schedule teacher can require the students to write down their assignments every class day. The teacher can help the students to easily adapt to the new block schedule asking the students to plan ahead for when the assignments and projects will be due. This will aid the students to be more responsible for the submission of their assignments. The teachers must open wider the communication lines between the students and themselves in order to lessen the impact of the adaptation of the block schedule (Shortt & Thayer, 1999, p. 29).
Further, teachers are instrumental in spreading the block schedule. One big help that teachers can do to reduce the number of absences brought about by the change to the blocks schedule to contact the students and guide them along the way as they slowly adjust to the new block environment. The teachers encourage the students to contact them if they have any questions or fears or reservations about the new block schedule. The teachers encourage the students who have missed their regular classes to visit them for guidance on how to cope with the missing lessons (Hottenstein, 1999, p. 23).
And, the teacher will impress on the students being absent for one day would be equivalent to being absent for one week because the subject is offered only twice or so a week. The high school teacher needs to convince the habitual student absentees that being absent for one is equivalent to missing the lessons that are scheduled for one week under the traditional non –block schedule. Teachers must think like the students in order to help them figure out the best way to handle their new block schedule using where some students are confused by alternating subject schedules. This does not look good for a student who has been accustomed to following a more routine schedule under the traditional non –block schedule (Lonardi, 1998, p. 28).
Furthermore, the teachers can hasten the transition process to the block schedule. One way that the teacher can do to ease the birth pains of introducing the block schedule to the high school students is to offer a daily resource class to all students. This would surely create a dent in the resistance of the uncooperative students. The teacher can allocate time during the school days under the block schedule for ALL students to get the much needed help with their assignments. The teacher can also help ALL students to access academic supports. The teachers can also help ALL students in their make up tests and quizzes. The teacher can also help ALL students in all the phases of complying with their classroom project requirements. The teachers can help by having a heart to heart talk with students who lag behind the rest the class and have problems adjusting to the block schedule. The teacher can act as a counselor or a second father or second mother to boost the students’ confidence that they can hurdle all obstacles preventing them from keeping up with their peers in highs school in terms of learning the topics discussed in class(Certo, Cauley & Chafin, 2003). The block schedule could even be a four -day school week. The teachers must pinpoint the students that need an extra hour of their time. On the other hand, the teachers do not need so much time focusing on the high school students who are doing well in class (Reeves, 1999, p. 30).
In addition, the high school teachers are the secret weapons to ensure victory of the block schedule. The teachers help can do wonders in bringing a wallowing child out of deep academic trouble. The teacher symbolically can hold the academically disadvantaged high school student’s hand as they both smoothly flow through the road of high school lessons with the end in mind of receiving high scholastic marks. This helping hand comes in the form of semi –tutoring the confused and slow -learning students to complete the assignments and other projects assigned to them (Fang & Ashley, 2004). The teachers must instill in the minds of the students that they are both dug in the same foxhole to weather out the storm of communicating the facts of life. As such, the teachers must make the students that they are real life partners in the struggle to survive in this crazy world outside the school gates (Fitzgerald, 1996, p. 20).
Also, some similarities between the traditional and block schedule will increase the probability of ensuring the high school students’ acceptance. One very good way of making the block schedule resistors look at the other side of the fence (prefer block schedule classroom format) is say that the strong partnership bond between the teacher and the students under the traditional non –block high school classroom schedule is that this bond will still remain intact and even grow stronger by the minute if they will only open their hearts and minds to the advantages of the new way of learning things. In addition, the inclusion of some subjects under the traditional non –block schedule to the block schedule has softened or even eliminated any major resistance to changing the old way of learning to the new way of knowing the abilities and capacities needed by each high school student to survive in the harsh, cold and volatile real world outside the four walls of the classroom (Keen, 1999, p. 27).
Further, the teachers can enlist the students’ help to propagate the block schedule. The students can be asked by the teachers through the representation of their class officers to contribute their feedback on the new block schedules. This will surely lessen the resistance to block schedule because the students feel that their small voices have been heard and actions have been instituted in line with their comments, suggestions and criticisms. The best reason that the teachers can give to the resisting students is that they will have more advantages when the block schedule has been set into motion when compared to the tradition way of classroom learning. The teacher can introduce more resource classes in order to help the students know their way in the dark road towards the new block schedule. Furthermore, the teachers and the school administrators can have a serious meeting in order to have a united stand to help the high school students muster enough strength to learn their lessons in mathematics, English, social sciences and the like under the new horizon known as the block schedule classroom program (Manke, 1997, p. 61).
After all fails, teachers and students have to admit that not all high school students will fit into the block schedule way of thinking. Some students still prefer to wish that the old way of doing things will return. And the high school block schedule teachers have to double, triple or simply give their two hundred percent to convince the unconvinced child that he has to embrace the new block schedule because it is more advantageous to the whole high school class, the teacher and especially the unconvinced student (Smith, 2006).
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