The debate over the traditional six or seven period day verses variations of the block schedule has been around for years. In order to determine the schedule that best suits your school, certain questions have to be answered.
When students are not successful or fail a course, which schedule provides more opportunities to catch up? If students are expected to earn 23 credits to graduate, both the seven period year long schedule and the 4X4 block schedule have built in opportunities for students to catch up if not successful in one or more courses. The seven period year long schedule a student has the opportunity to earn 28 credits. In the block schedule a student has the opportunity to earn 32 credits. Even though the block schedule has four more opportunities for students to take additional courses, the argument for the block schedule is not paramount if students are only required to earn 23 credits to graduate.
Does one schedule cost less for staffing purposes verses the other? Because of the economic times we are now living, many school districts are moving away from the block schedule and implementing a seven period day schedule. I am not sure of the statistical numbers of savings but have to wonder if this is the best way to save money.
The next question posed is the sheer work load of teachers in a seven period day verses the block schedule. Obviously the teachers have to work with twice the number of students in the traditional schedule. The teaching and learning process is much different for some courses due to the curriculum-one example is an ELA Teacher grading 180 essays in a 7 period schedule while in a block schedule the papers would drop to 90. Would the teacher have more time to provide specific feedback for learning?
Time is a major factor when looking at the effectiveness of a teacher. Teachers must have time to plan engaging lessons that meet the needs of all students with assessments providing a clear picture of what kids know or are able to do in reference to the curriculum on the road to mastery. Teacher much have time to collaborate with colleagues to discuss their work in detail.
Another point to consider is the student perspective. Are students able to leave a middle school and jump into a schedule with 7 courses taught by 7 teachers? Many have no problem with this notion but a high number of at-risk students are not able to handle or juggle this much work. I am afraid our at-risk students lose interest very quickly and soon become a statistic and drop out.
In order for teachers to be effective, what is a manageable work load or teacher/student ratio? For the sake of this discussion, I am referring to the total number of course preparations and total number of students teachers are responsible to teach.
What is the minimum time a class must be in session for teachers to use the framework of instruction with fidelity?
Through the years I have read numerous articles expressing opinions favoring both sides of this issue. Please share which you prefer and let everyone know why. It would be great to hear from both classroom teachers and students.