Block Scheduling Research

Below are some of the findings from schools around the country. Please note that not all schools will experience each advantage. Also as in any change there may be initial drop off in some areas. Our experience has demonstrated that schools that take a year to research the change, and then a year of planning and training, will find some success the first year. The new schedule should be given three years of implementation, change and adjustment before full comparison studies are conducted.

Within two years after a high school moves from a daily, single-period schedule to an A/B or 4/4 schedule, the data indicate that:

The number of discipline referrals to the office is reduced sgnificantly.

Initially, there is greater stress for teachers until they learn how to plan and to teach in a larger block of time, but eventually the school environment becomes less stressful for both teachers and students.

About 80 percent of the teachers in the school lecture less and gradually engage students in more active learning structures; therefore, students become less passive in their learning.

The number of students on the A, B Honor Roll increases. In the 4/4 plan, there also may be an increase in the number of students making F's.

The number of class tardies is reduced.

The majority of students will say they like school better.

Some students often labeled "at-risk" will more likely stay in school; this is especially true in the 4/4 schedule.

In some courses, such as mathematics, teachers probably will cover less material; however, they report that the material which they do teach is taught better and taught in greater depth. Again, this finding is more likely to occur in the 4/4 plan.

The number of interdisciplinary teams and studies is likely to increase with block scheduling.

Most teachers will plan lessons that include at least three different activities.The most difficult aspect of a lesson plan for teachers seems to be (a) developing and implementing the application phase of a lesson, and (b) managing the transitions within the block.

Graduation rates will at least hold; they are more likely to increase with the 4/4 plan than with the A/B plan.

Both student and teacher attendance will likely improve.

In the 4/4 plan students are likely to complete more courses than in the A/B or single-period schedules.

In both the A/B and 4/4 plans, foreign language teachers report difficulty covering the equivalent of two classes of material during a double-length period.

Curriculum adjustments need to be made with block schedules, especially with the 4/4 plan, to accommodate pacing issues and the more in-depth study that hopefully occurs. For example, some students may need to be expected to take additional math courses!

The students in the 4/4 plan enrolling in additional math courses seem to be of two types: a) those who fail a course and retake it, and b) those who take math courses, such as statistics, for enrichment.

The way teachers are assigned to schools can be a problem with the 4/4 plan; for example, when schools are assigned faculty slots by subject areas, that can be a problem when and if a significant number of students take additional math, music, or foreign language classes either as retakes or for enrichment.

There is inconsistent data relative to the amount of homework completed in block-scheduled schools. Some teachers report more, and some report less!

In one 1995 study being completed in Minnesota related to student-engaged time, the preliminary results indicate that, surprisingly to some, students in longer block-scheduled classes had a higher engagement rate than did students in the shorter, traditional schedule. This appeared to be true for all subject areas, including mathematics. NOTE: We strongly suspect this occurs only after teachers have received assistance in developing lessons to engage learners!

Unless special plans are in operation, students experience difficulty in recovering from absences. There are, however, some indications that because of this factor "the more motivated students" have fewer absences.To solve the attendance problem of real "school haters," we will need to do more than to provide them with a block schedule.

There is some evidence that math performance under a block schedule may drop initially and then improve; we suspect this is a pacing issue that can be corrected.

To date, there is evidence that AP scores will hold or improve with block schedules. The difference in the 4/4 plan may depend upon how AP classes are scheduled. In some schools AP classes are one semester; in lab classes they are two semesters, and some AP classes are scheduled for 27 weeks. Additional study related to these various time allotments is needed.

In spite of some challenges which block scheduling presents teachers, themajority of them report that, after experiencing it for two or moreyears, they are favorable to it, and students are overwhelmingly positive!

There have been two studies out of Canada that show some drop in scores. While we think that these studies in many areas support both our contentions about the negatives of traditional school scheduling and the advantages of block scheduling, we find the studies suspect. You can view our response here.

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