Why We’re Opposed

So what’s wrong with the proposed block schedule ?  The reasons are too numerous to cover all of them in detail here, so watch for posts to this blog for more details.  But in a nutshell:

  1. The existing schedule is excellent
  2. The block schedule will reduce the quality of our childrens’ education

First, let’s talk about the existing schedule.  This goes well beyond “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  The existing system is actually really, really, REALLY good.  The current schedule allows students to enroll in up to eight classes (including study hall, gym, electives).  Each day, six class blocks are held, so students attend six of their eight classes.  Over the course of four days, each class is held three times, twice in a “short block” and once in a “long block” allowing teachers to tackle material in depth as needed.  Classes rotate, so a student will never have the same class first thing in the morning for more than one day out of four (and teachers don’t have to try to teach the same group of students the same thing every single day at 8 a.m.)  It’s really a brilliant schedule that should not be discarded on a whim.

Obviously, the second issue is the showstopper.  There are many problems with the modified 4×4 block schedule that will lead to a lower quality of education.  First, there is no rotation of classes.  That means that students who do poorly first thing in the morning will do poorly in the same class every day.  And teachers have to teach certain classes to the same groups of students at 8 a.m. every day, rather than only one out of every four days.  All classes are 80 minutes long.  This is well beyond the attention span of the average teenager.  Most classes (except the handful of “A/B” classes) are held every day, so there is no “break” from any class.  In the current schedule, every class meets only 3 out of 4 days, so students always get a day off to catch up on homework in that class.

Most classes end up being taught in only 90 days, instead of 180.  Therefore Algebra and Geometry, English and History, Science all need to cram a year’s worth of subject matter into half the time.  The total class time remains about the same, but as mentioned, few students have the attention span for 80 minute classes all day, every day.  And calendar time is cut in half.  Humanities students who currently read The Iliad, The Odyssey, Gilgamesh and Antigone in the first semester will now have to cram that into 45 days or, more likely, read fewer books.  And math requires time – not just class time, but calendar time – to allow students to digest new abstract concepts and to practice.  The idea of learning a year’s worth of algebra or geometry in 90 days is preposterous.

The block schedule poses another serious problem for math.  If Algebra is learned in only 90 days, then students go roughly seven months without studying math.  The “summer slide” (a term for the decrease in a student’s learning over the summer break) is such a huge issue that many schools are instituting multiple two week breaks throughout the year, rather than a single nine or ten week break every summer.  And now we’re supposed to believe that moving to a system with a seven MONTH slide is somehow going to decrease the number of D’s and F’s in math !

To be fair, AP (advanced placement) math classes are being offered in A/B blocks (where two classes occupy alternate days of a single block over the course of an entire year) because the AP exam is held in the spring.  It makes you wonder, though – if AP students need to study math right up until the exam to do well, why don’t all math students need to study year round ?  If it is true that students “will not forget any more in a semester than one forgets over the summer months”¹ then why do AP students need to study math right up until the exam ?

Of course they forget more.  One suggestion is for students to simply sign up for back to back math classes so they are studying math all year long.  There are three problems with this:
  1. HVRHS does not offer enough math classes to accomplish this.  And there’s no need – after all, we’re talking about doing two years worth of math classes every year.
  2. We’re talking about doing two years worth of math classes every year !
  3. Taking two math classes every year requires allocating 2 out of 8 blocks, reducing the number of other classes that a student can take.

This is a bad idea.  We can’t speak for everybody, but we’ve talked to a lot of people.  Parents don’t want this. Students don’t want this.  Teachers don’t want this.  Hopefully, this information is enough to give readers a good idea why we don’t want this plan implemented.  But for more details read the research.

¹From Communication Points about a 4×4 Semester Schedule.

 

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