Block Party: Evanston should adopt block scheduling

Callie Grober, Opinion Editor

Five days a week. Nine periods a day. 42 minutes each.

It’s the classic high school schedule used by ETHS and hundreds of other schools across the country. For all its popularity, though, the nine period schedule is neither the most effective or efficient for student success. Students rush from one class to the next, each period jam-packed with work because they have so little time. They frantically check HAC to make sure their most recent test or quiz didn’t affect their grade too much, considering they had hours of other work to do the night before and barely had any time to study. Many problems with the current education system– such as high stress levels for students, limited time in class, and a grade-focused mentality– can be remedied by the implementation of block scheduling, or four 80-minute classes, which allow for more in-depth teaching, further collaboration between students and teachers, and less stress on students.

Traditional nine period schedules operate under a dangerous assumption: that all students learn at the same pace. The hecticness of a traditional schedule, in which both students and teachers are constantly pushed to get through material as quickly as possible, does not allow for students to receive the individual help that so many need, and therefore forces everyone to conform to the standards set by teachers and administrators. The impersonal environment created by this type of schedule is insufficient to students’ education, and generally does not allow for a full exploration of the subjects and issues that could be facilitated by block scheduling.

The most common instance of block scheduling is “A/B scheduling,” in which students go to half of their classes on “A” days, and the other half on “B” days, with periods 60-80 minutes long. Block schedules are becoming more and more common, with schools such as North Shore Country Day and Loyola High School adopting such schedules, and rightly so; according to Michael Rettig of the American Association of School Administrators, following the implementation of block schedules, evidence from multiple studies consistently shows that students’ grades improve and the number of students on the honor roll increase.

The slower pace of block schedules is helpful to students, and generally allows for a more in-depth exploration of topics, which explains the subsequent improvement of students’ grades.  

As expected, the slower pace that comes with block scheduling also reduces the stress of students and teachers by increasing the time teachers have for planning and the time students have to work with their teachers, and decreasing the amount of homework for students. Kerry Beton, a teacher from a Minnesota school that recently implemented block scheduling, told NEA Today, “Now we have the time to take the lessons further and really engage students.”

Currently, students could get homework for every class, which could be as many as seven or eight classes. This is a huge workload for students, and forces them to switch between subjects rapidly. With a block schedule, students focus on only a few subjects each night, which allows them to put more time and thought into each individual assignment.

Though block scheduling has a noted positive effect on student success, this improvement doesn’t happen just because of a new bell schedule. Ultimately, teachers, and students, have to change their mindset and adjust their teaching to fit the new schedule. This mindset change is necessary to ensure lower levels of stress and an understanding of students’ different learning paces. No amount of scheduling and rescheduling can change whether or not a teacher is effective in this sense.

The implementation of a block schedule in any school is a massive undertaking — it is a complete change of the day-to-day operations of a institution. Nevertheless, the current system has issues– such as high student stress levels, grade-focused mentalities, and limited time in class– that could be solved by block scheduling; it would neglectful of the responsibility teachers and administrators have to their students to ignore a potential solution to problems such as these that are plaguing the education system.