The Research

The British Columbia Study

Marshall, M., Taylor, A., Bateson, D., & Brigden, S. (1995). The British Columbia assessment of mathematics and science: Preliminary report (DRAFT). Victoria, B.C.: B.C. Ministry of Education.

The most extensive comparison of block scheduling versus traditional comes from a 1995 British Columbia Mathematics and Science Assessment. In this study, “all-year”refers to  regular school (7-8 courses at a time) while “semester” refers to block scheduling where  the school year is split into two halves and students take half their courses in each semester (3-4 courses at a time).  This study shows that in science, “in every case, students in 10-month programs outscored students on semester timetables, who, in turn, outscored students taking science in a quarter system.”  The author summarizes his findings as follows:

“It appears that the hypothesized benefits of semester and quarter systems, in terms of student achievement, are not being realized, at least in science in British Columbia. In fact, it appears that students on semester and quarter systems may actually be disadvantaged in the area of science achievement as measured by this assessment.”

The results and conclusions were the same for math.

Raphael Study of Math

Raphael, D., Wahlstrom, M.W. and McLean, L.D. (1986). “Debunking the semestering myth.” Canadian Journal of Education, 11(1), 36-52.

“Advantages claimed for semester organization of secondary schools were examined using data from a probability sample of 250 mathematics classrooms in 80 Ontario schools.  Achievement and attitude data were collected from 5280 students in the course of the Second International Mathematics Study, and it was determined that 94 of the classes were taught in half the school year, i.e., by semesters.  Teachers in semester schools were likely to report use of a greater variety of instructional materials.  Suggestions reported in the literature of better student attitudes and achievement were not supported, and performance of Grade 12 and 13 students in semestered classes was significantly lower than those in year-long classes.”

Gore Study

This study, “1996 Provincial Exam Results and Timetables” by Gordon R. Gore  shows that full year students outperformed block schedule students in all tested subjects.

Iowa State University Study

This “Iowa State University College of Education news release states that “Student achievement may be impaired by certain models of block scheduling, according to a new series of studies by Iowa State University and ACT.”  According to the news release, ACT scores for 568 Iowa high schools were examined over a period of time and results of those high schools that transitioned to 4×4 block schedules were compared to others.  Over the same period of time, schools using a traditional schedule showed little change in scores while those using block schedules decreased with rural schools faring especially poorly, particularly in the first few years following adoption of block scheduling.

Washington School Research Center

The Washington School Research Center published a study in 2006 called “Schedule Matters: The Relationship between High School Schedules and Student Academic Achievement,” by Duane Baker, Jeff Joireman, Joan Clay, and Martin Abbott.  This study of math, reading and writing achievement data at high schools in Washington state showed the highest results at schools using traditional schedules and “modified block” (a mix of traditional and block periods) and lowest at schools using 4×4 and A/B block schedules.

More to follow …

These are a few of the studies we’ve found.  Please check back again for more of our research.

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