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Don't "Lego" My Block Schedule

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Kim McReynolds

on 18 October 2014

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Transcript of Don't "Lego" My Block Schedule

Individual Pacing: more one-on-one with struggling students, and opportunities to advance others
Don't "Lego" My Block Schedule
How can you create patient problem solvers in only 45 minutes?
What is block scheduling?
A system for scheduling the middle or high school day, typically by replacing a more traditional schedule of six or seven 40-50 minute daily periods with longer class periods that meet fewer times each day and week.

Common Examples:
4 x 4 schedule
A/B schedule
"Copernican" schedule
Rotating schedule
Allows for eight different classes in one school year
Possible to have some courses be in both semesters (i.e. math or foreign language)
4 x 4 Block Model
A/B Model
Copernican Model
Rotating Model
Advocates Argue:
Improved teaching and learning: the ability to focus attention on the tasks at hand and not on clerical classroom duties
More course offerings: Options of electives and possibly retaking failed classes
Stronger relationships: teacher has more time to devote to each student and learns how they learn best
Fewer discipline problems: teachers understand the students better and students have less time in the halls
Teacher Collaboration: longer periods of time to work with a team and peers for planning
Diverse classrooms: time for labs, discussions, stations, etc.
Higher attendance rate: students are not bored as the routine is changed up and missing one class is like missing two
Higher grades: students and teachers have a little extra time to devote to keeping students caught up on classwork
Lower drop-out rate: more opportunity to re-take failed classes so students do not get as frustrated
Opponents Argue:
GPA growth is not reliable: teachers have control over grades, so they can look any way they want them to
Homework time in class, not extra learning: teachers do not know how to teach for the full block and give homework to complete instead
Students need the breaks between classes: students need time to socialize and need breaks, so they will likely leave the classroom at some point
Less time in actual core subjects: the time added up does not equal the same amount in a regular block day
Attention span is not long enough: students' attention spans are only 20-30 minutes, so longer classes just mean more time to be bored
Difficulty transferring schools: other schools might not be on the same schedule and the student might have gaps
1 day missed really means 2: creates a great deal of learning to make up
Some classes really need to meet daily: like a foreign language and math
"Alternative schedules may not add hours to the school day, but they can vastly improve the quality of the time students spend at school" (Canady & Rettig, 1993).
The object of modifying a schedule is to make the time more efficient for the students. Not all classes need to be modified or blocked.
"Negative perceptions of block schedules stem not from the strategy itself, but from failed attempts to implement such a schedule in a school, or from educators who have had negative experience with a poorly organized or executed block-scheduling strategy" ("Block Schedule," 2013).
Implementation needs to include teacher training on how to best use the time. We all have a repertoire of engaging activities and an active and varying teaching style, but on-going training and a cooperative team would lessen the burden of change.
"Merely changing the school bell schedule will not guarantee better student performance" (Rettig, 1999).
"The merits of block scheduling are a subject of great debate. Is it a flexible scheduling alternative that benefit students, or is it a fad that's sure to pass" (Cromwell, 2013)?
"There are many advantages to using [blocked scheduling] in middle schools, and the Association for Middle Level Education reports that most exemplary middle schools use some variation of flexible scheduling" (Anderson).
"The purpose of the Copernican Plan was not to change the schedule but to create an environment and structure in which teachers and students could have a better relationship, one in which both would also have a more manageable workload. Schedule changes were a means to that end, not an end in themselves" (Kadel, 1994, p. 7).
"Both learners and teachers need more time not to do more of the same, but to use all time in new, different and better ways. The key to liberating learning lies in unlocking time" (Prisoners of Time, 1994, p. 10).
"Students who know their teachers and feel apart of their classes are less disruptive and stay in school" (Carroll, 1994, p. 104).
As math teachers of the 21st century, we should be teaching students how to effectively problem solve.

My question for this project was as follows:


The simple truth is, you cannot. We, as teachers, are a slave to time. We can teach a topic, but the actual problem solving falls by the wayside without ample class time. To effectively problem solve, you need to be able to evaluate the information given, make a plan, implement that plan, and then verify that the answer is reasonable. This is simply not possible in a regularly scheduled 45 minute block of time.
How can you create patient problem solvers in only 45 minutes?
Teachers must understand how to use time effectively. Critics argue that teachers continue to just do "more of the same" when given extended periods of time. However, with the freedom of time, comes responsibility. Teachers should actively engage the students for the whole time by varying activities and assignments.
Most studies show an increase in interest, understanding and attendance with a blocked schedule. With this increase, students will naturally learn more if the teachers use the time effectively. This could be time for stations, labs and exploration activities that solidify the knowledge for most students.
A/B blocks offer students the opportunity to be better organized and eliminated the issue of seven tests in one day.
Modified A/B Block allows for one class to be seen all five days of the week. This is beneficial for classes where practice every day is ideal (i.e. a foriegn language or band).
The most heard complaint of teachers is there are not enough hours in the day. Teachers need time to teach in a deeper manner, and students need the time to evaluate the information being addressed. Time for collaboration on both parts is essential, and blocking allows for that team work.
The A, B, C blocks in the middle of the day represent three half-hour lunch periods during which students can eat lunch, meet with teachers, and attend clubs or other extracurricular activities. The final block of the day is for an elective 40-minute class.
Credit is awarded for mastering the objects of a course, and students graduate at the end of the semester in which they complete the required nummber of credits.
There are several variations of this plan. Studetns attend classes in large blocks of time over the course of 30, 45, 60, or 90 days depending on the format the school selected.
The Copernican Plan is the schedule that will likely meet the most resistance. By making the classes longer, and giving teachers less students each semester, it enables the teachers to use creative ways to interact with the students and create well-rounded individuals.
Students still attend every class every day but just rotate times.
Allows teachers to see students at the most optimal time at least once a week.
Block scheduling allows for a teacher to get to know their students in a way other teachers cannot. Double the time, does mean double the conversation. Students tend to build a stronger relationship with the teachers they see more often or feel give more time to them. Often, the better a student knows and even likes a teacher, the better they will perform on standardized tests.
Block scheduling or some form of alternative schedules have existed since the early 1990's and grown in acceptance more and more every year.
My current middle school implements block scheduling, but in an innovative way. The only class on the campus that is blocked is 8th grade math.

We keep our students through passing periods and continue with our class.

As an 8th grade math teacher, I make the most of the time with stations, group exploration, one-on-one interventions rotations of sorts. To me, this block time is crucial for our 8th graders to become Algebra ready.

This year, the district has discussed removing it from our campus, as we are the only middle school that currently has any block.
Due to our STAAR results, the district has opted to leave the 8th grade block math in place, and consider blocking 6th and/or 7th grade math.

The first round administration, we saw an 84% pass rate, and a 20% growth over last year's scores.

We, as a title 1 school, ranked right with the higher socio-economic schools in our district.
I have built some incredibly strong bonds with my 8th graders over the last couple of years. It is true, the extra time really does assist in relationship building.

I, after experiencing blocked math, would not want it removed. There are some disadvantages. There are times that the class just seems too long, and you need a break from a particular student. But ultimately, it is the best possible scenario for learning.
Kim McReynolds
MED 5303
June 25, 2014
Blocking Math is the key to creating a patient problem solver.
References
Anderson, M.. What are the advantages to having a rotating schedule in middle school? eHow.

Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/info_12286108_advantages-having-rotating-schedule-middle-school.html
Block schedule. (2013, August). The Glossary of Education Reform for Journalists, Parents, and Community Members.

Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/block-schedule/
Block scheduling: innovations with time. (1998). LAB at Brown University. Retrieved from

http://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/sites/brown.edu.academics.education-alliance/files

publications/block.pdf
Canady, R. L. & Rettig, M. D. (1993). Unlocking the lock-step high school schedule. Department of Secondary Education,

James Madison University. Retrieved from http://www.project2061.org/publications/designs/online/pdfs

reprints/3_canady.pdf
Carroll, J. M. (1994). The Copernican Plan evaluated: the evolution of the revolution. Phi Delta Kappan 76(2), 104). Retrieved from

http://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-16348380/the-copernican-plan-evaluated-the-evolution-of-a
Cromwell, S. (2013). Block scheduling: a solution or a problem?. Education World: Connecting educators to what works. Retrieved from

http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin029.shtml
Gee, W. D. (1997). The Copernican Plan and year-round education: two ideas that work together. Phi Delta Kappan, 78(10), 793.

Retrieved from http://www.project2061.org/publications/designs/online/pdfs/reprints/5_gee.pdf
Kadel, S. (1994). Reengineering high schools for student success. Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED366076.pdf
Mattox, K., Hancock, D. R., & Queen, J. A. (2005). The effect of block scheduling on middle school students’ mathematics

achievement. NASSP Bulletin, 89(642), 3-13. Retrieved from http://www.nassp.org/portals/0/content/50245.pdf
Prisoners of time. (1994). The Education Commission of the States Education Reform Reprint Series.

Retrieved from http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/64/52/6452.pdf
Research spotlight on block scheduling; NEA reviews of the research on best practices in education. (2014). National Education
Association. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/tools/16816.htm
Research spotlight on block scheduling; NEA reviews of the research on best practices in education. (2014).

National Education Association. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/tools/16816.htm
Rettig, M. D. (1999). The effects of block scheduling: two leading authorities describe what results when high schools use
alternative schedules. The School Administrator. Retrieved from http://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?
id=14852
Rettig, M. D. (1999). The effects of block scheduling: two leading authorities describe what results when high schools use
alternative schedules. The School Administrator. Retrieved from http://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?
id=14852
Rettig, M. D. (1999). The effects of block scheduling: two leading authorities describe what results when high schools use
alternative schedules. The School Administrator. Retrieved from http://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?
id=14852
Rettig, M. D. (1999). The effects of block scheduling: two leading authorities describe what results

when high schools use alternative schedules. The School Administrator. Retrieved from http://

www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=14852
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