No Child Left Behind mandates placed tremendous pressure on schools throughout the country to succeed in helping our students achieve. School leaders are spending time and money to find ways to improve their schools. Many leaders have chosen to restructure their everyday scheduling format. Schools need to explore if this is beneficial or not. The purpose of this study is to determine if block scheduling has an effect on student achievement of high school students who are enrolled in block scheduling classes versus those enrolled in traditional classes.
The block format will consist of four 90-minute classes. The traditional format will consist of six 50 minutes classes. To examine student achievement, the researcher will explore three critical areas. They are academic achievement, student discipline, and student attendance. The sample population will consist of students, teachers and administrators. The students of this population will be students enrolled at a high school that uses the block format and students enrolled at a high school that uses the traditional format.
To examine academic achievement, only students who have completed their 11th grade year and taken the social studies portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test will be used. To examine discipline and attendance, the teachers, administrators and some students will be randomly selected. The case study will consist of interview questionnaires and data from the students’ records to determine if there is a difference with block scheduling compared to traditional scheduling.
The research will explain and explore if block scheduling versus traditional scheduling is a wise decision for school leaders throughout the country. CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1. 1 Statement of Problem It is no secret that schools in the United States have come under much fire lately for their failure to meet the basic educational needs of students. Globally, students in the United States lag far behind those of other countries. Education reform is a catch phrase on the lips of politicians and educational researchers alike.
Dobbs reports that in a global math skills test, the United States ranked 24th out of 29 wealthy, industrialized countries. Approximately 5500 students in 262 high schools were studied; their poor performance suggests a widening gap between US students and their counterparts in Europe and Asia (Dobbs, M. , 2004). In addition an International Math & Science Study reported the high school seniors were out-performed by 90% of other tested nations in math and by 76% in science (Hodges, 2003).
In reading, students are equally unprepared. The Alliance for Excellent Education reports that nearly 6 million middle and high school students do not read at grade level. In addition, over half the students entering college scored at unacceptable levels on college entrance exams in reading, and these trends seem to cross gender and racial lines (Aratani, 2006). The current debate about school reform came in response to the report, A Nation at Risk (2004) which made the above statistics and their implications public to the nation.
The National Commission on Excellence in Education remarked that if a foreign power had attempted to impose our current education performance on any nation, it would have been deemed an act of war. In a nutshell, schools in America were characterized as failed systems (Finn, 1997). The No Child Left Behind Act (NCBLA) by the current Bush Administration is one of the most groundbreaking educational reforms in years. Approved by Congress in December 2001 and signed into law on January 8, 2002, this legislation expanded the federal government’s role in the operation of public schools and imposed new obligations on all school districts.
The NCLBA’s basic reform principles feature stronger accountability of the schools, administrators and teachers, increased flexibility and local control of funds from the federal government, expanded options for parents in choosing schools, and an increased emphasis on successful teaching methods (No Child Left Behind Act, 2001). Policymakers are also accountable not just for the enhanced consumer satisfaction of the parents who have an active role in school choice, but also for the overall improvement of opportunity and performance for students who have only a limited role in school choice (Leckrone & Griffith, 2006).
To combat these downward trends and to provide for the new obligations and standards in the NCLBA, public education reform has turned to a revision of the structure of the school day. This included changing the schedules from a traditional six or seven period day which consisted of 45 to 55 minute classes that met daily for an entire school year to a block schedule. Block schedules take many forms, but basically, the class times per period doubles to about 90 minutes each and the number of classes taken is reduced from six or seven to four per semester. 1. 2 Statement of Purpose
Since the trend toward block scheduling began several years ago, and reports have been mixed as to whether block scheduling has been beneficial or deleterious in solving some of the problems of US high schools. Many factors are involved when it comes to student achievement. These include, among other things, school climate, teaching practices, familial support, motivation and resources. This study seeks to determine the effectives of block scheduling on the academic performance of high school students with regard to the discipline, attendance and test scores. 1. 3 Definitions
For the purposes of this study, the following definitions will be used: • 4 x 4 Block Scheduling – Four classes, approximately ninety minutes in length, every day for the first semester. Four completely different classes, again ninety minutes in length, every day for the second semester. Each class equals one credit (The Change Process and Alternative Scheduling, 1996). • A/B Block Scheduling – Four classes, approximately ninety minutes in length, meeting every other day (“A” days) for an entire school year. Four completely different classes, again ninety minutes in length, meeting on alternate days (“B” days) for an entire year.
Each class equals one credit (The Change Process and Alternative Scheduling, 1996). • Combination Block Schedule – A combination of 4 x 4 and A/B block schedules (The Change Process and Alternative Scheduling, 1996). • Flexible Schedule – A combination of 4 x 4 and A/B block schedules, but class length varies from day to day. One example: On three out of every five days throughout the school year, each class could be 90 minutes in length. On the other two days, designated as Advisement/Resource Days, each class is 75 minutes in length. An Advisement/Resource Hour is 60 minutes in length (The Change Process and Alternative Scheduling, 1996).
• Traditional Format – six (or more) 50-minutes classes per day • FMS – the Flexible Modular System designed by J. Lloyd Trump which introduced alternative scheduling options and provided for differing times for classes depending on the needs of the student and the content of the particular course. • GHSGT – The Georgia High School Graduation Test which must be passed by all seniors in public high schools in Georgia. • Carnegie Unit – 120 hours of class or contact time with an instructor over the course of a year at the secondary school level
• No Child Left Behind Act – NCLBA, 2001 legislation which tightened federal control over the standards and processes of American public schools. 1. 4 Assumptions of the Study This study assumes that all schools and students and teachers polled are enrolled or teaching in schools that follow the typical formats discussed above, that they have no previously diagnosed mental disabilities or learning problems and that the school is not participating in any additional enrichment programs which may distort the results of the study. 1. 5 Significance of the Study
This study is important for anyone interested in improving education in American high schools. This study is significant in that it provides to the body of research that determine a) if the block scheduling concept is perceived by teachers and students as efficient and advantageous and b) if the block scheduling concept is actually responsible for improved academic achievement based upon variable factors of attendance, disciplinary records, and achievement test scores. 1. 6 Limitations of the Study This study is limited by the existence of several variables which cannot be tested by these researchers or that cannot be completely controlled.
First, the research obtained is limited to those participants who willingly elect to complete the surveys and questionnaires in their entirety. All personal data to be collected is limited by the veracity of the respondents. Because of the small scope of the research, it is difficult to statistically proportion the number of respondents from necessary categories such as gender, race, income level, and college plans. It can also not take into account existing problems in the schools unrelated to scheduling such as teacher turnover, violence, etc. 1. 7 Summary
The problems faced by high schools in the United States are wide-ranging and diverse. No one change will provide an instant cure for all that ails the education system. The NCLBA mandates and the general demise of educational achievement has prompted several new methods of teaching, administrating and funding education in America. The issue of scheduling may hold promise as to improving some aspects of academic performance. CHAPTER TWO REVIEW of the LITERATURE 2. 1 Historical Background of Block Scheduling Students of the 20th century spent nearly all of their high school time in 45 to 55 minute class periods, six or seven classes a day.
During the 1960s, some experimental ideas emerged, notable the model of J. Lloyd Trump, who proposed creating classes of varying lengths depending upon the course. Science courses with lab requirements could meet for 100 minutes while lectures could be scheduled for 40 minutes and tutorials for 20 minutes. This system was called the Flexible Modular System (FMS). Later, a similar type of scheduling was dubbed the Copernican Plan which resulted in a reported benefit of improved graduation rates (Carroll, 1995). The plan gives students an extra chance each year to pass a semester class that they may have failed.
In 1984, John Goodlad warned education leaders that the traditional school structure spends way too much time on six or seven class changes and does not allow “for individualized instruction, for extended laboratory work, or for remediation and enrichment” (Queen, 2000). Eventually, the extreme flexibility of time produced discipline issues, scheduling headaches and teacher planning problems, and FMS’s popularity began to wane (Dobbs, W. , 1998) Nonetheless, the importance of this system has not been overlooked, and it is generally regarded as the precursor to the modern block scheduling system.
Tradition has always played a role in high school scheduling. The Carnegie Unit became a standard for determining a students required yearly course load. Most critics of the traditional system likened the Carnegie Unit to simply amassed seat time (Canady and Rettig, 1995). This point was reiterated in the National Education Commission on Time and Learning’s publication of A Prisoner of Time. It states that Learning in America is a prisoner of time. For the past 150 years, American public schools have held time constant and let learning vary.
The rule, only rarely voiced, is simple: learn what you can in the time we make available. It should surprise no one that some bright, hardworking students do reasonably well. Everyone else—from the typical student to the dropout—runs into trouble. Time is learning’s warden. (National Education Commission on Time and Learning, 1994, p. 7) “The pace is grueling” (Irmsher, 1996). A student will spend nearly seven hours a day in seven to nine locations pursuing seven to nine different lessons and activities which produces an impersonal and inefficient approach to instruction.
“The pace is grueling” (Irmsher, 1996). Unfortunately, many administrators, teachers and parents resisted any type of change to the system that they had experienced themselves. This resistance was challenged with the report A Nation At Rise was published in 1983 which revealed the American educational system was not up to par with international systems. Thus, restructuring schools became a focus in improving educational achievement (Queen, 2000). 2. 2 Summary of Current Knowledge and Theory Relevant to Block Scheduling 2. 2. 1 Overview of Perceived Advantages to Block Scheduling Several researchers (Dobbs, W.
, 1998; Hurley, 1997; Zepeda, 1999; Staunton, 1997; Staunton and Adams, 1997; Pisapia, and Westfall, 1997; and Eineder and Bishop, 1997) reported the following perceived strengths and advantages by both students and teachers to block scheduling: • Increased teacher preparation time (in both teams and as individuals). • Double the class time for certain core subjects such as language arts and math. • Half as many students for teachers per semester • Additional elective class choice for 9th grade students; more choices for upperclassmen, including options of Advanced Placement and other higher level coursework
• More time for completion of labs, incorporating technology, class trips, and other various applications of learned material • Improved school climate and decreased disciplinary referrals • More time to do homework and for guided practice under the direction of the teacher • Improved academic achievement by students • Ability of students to accumulate enough credits to graduate early. • More one-on-one time between teachers and students In general, surveyed students liked the block scheduling. They claimed to be getting better grades, to have time for more in-depth study, and got more attention from the teachers.
They said their lives were less stressed and they liked having a fresh start each semester. Nearly all students asked said they would not want to return to the traditional schedule. One of the greatest effects of the 4 x 4 schedule is that students report having less homework. Of the 37 students interviewed, 20 said they had less homework, 7 said they had more, and 6 said they had about the same. If you don’t like the teacher, you don’t have to deal with him all year, or if you don’t like the subject. When the semester ends, it’s like a new school year. You’re not bogged down.
Clearly, these students reaped academic benefits from the change to the 4 x 4 schedule. Both college preparatory and general students reported they were learning more and receiving more individual attention (Hurley, 1997). Surveyed teachers indicated that they enjoyed lecturing less and spending more time one-on-one with students. Teachers teaching in block scheduling used more of a team approach and allowed them to experiment more in the classroom (Staunton, 1997; Staunton and Adams, 1997). Teachers also reported that their teaching methods and practices changed as block scheduling was implemented.
They used a wider array of strategies and activities. In one Florida study of over forty high schools on block scheduling, “forty percent of the teachers reported less stress at school, one-third reported increased common planning time, and 80 percent noted that they preferred the block schedule to their previous schedule” (Deuel, 1999). There seem to be several perceived advantages associated with block scheduling. 2. 2. 2 Overview of Perceived Disadvantages to Block Scheduling Several researchers (Dobbs, W.
, 1998; Hurley, 1997; Zepeda, 1999; Staunton, 1997; Staunton and Adams, 1997; Pisapia, and Westfall, 1997; and Eineder and Bishop, 1997) reported the following perceived weaknesses and disadvantages by both students and teachers to block scheduling: • Additional costs in hiring teachers. • Additional costs in adding space for teachers or the need for teachers to ‘travel’ which means he has no permanent classroom • Difficulty in making up work from absences because missing one day equivalent to missing two classes • Some classes clearly benefit from meeting every day (i. e. performing arts classes)
• Need for teachers to commit to using new teaching methods • Ninety minutes is a long time to hold the attention of students • Uneven schedules in which the harder classes all end up lumped into one semester making it too difficult and the next semester too easy. • The possibility that there will be a long gap in between sequential courses if they are not taken in back-to-back semesters. The primary disadvantage given by surveyed students is that the classes are too long. Students particularly gave this as a weakness when their teachers lectured for nearly all of the time period.
Others noted that “bad classes are really bad when they are held for 90 minutes” (Hurley, 1997). Surveyed teachers voiced concerns about interruptions of sequential material from one semester to the next and consistency issues with students. However, teacher opinion seemed to be mixed about this issue. Some foreign language teachers feared a sequential break between levels (Scheduling Foreign Languages on the Block, 1998). Other researchers found that some schools actually showed an increase in foreign language test scores because students could take level I and level II courses in back-to-back semesters (Schoenstein, 1996).
Some teachers felt more comfortable with the lecture approach and had little comfort with experimentation of teaching methods (Staunton, 1997; Staunton and Adams, 1997). 2. 2. 3 Actual Advantages to Block Scheduling via Research Studies. A Temple University study found that block scheduling had distinct advantages in academic achievement. Students who made the honor roll at the three schools studied rose from 22% to 31%. SAT scores rose by an average of 14 points. In addition, the number of detentions declined while student attendance increased (Evans, Tokarczyk and Rice, 2000).
Most recently, a 2006 study indicated a variety of advantages to block scheduling. Five Connecticut high schools were studied to determine what, if any, positive outcomes would result. The researchers used test scores and surveys as a means of data collection from school guidance counselors, teachers, administrators and students. The study found that gains in math rose significantly over a two year period, achievement test score averages rose in a statistically significant manner over three years, and PSAT and SAT scores increased within the first three years but then leveled off.
(Wilcox, 2006). This study is one of the few longitudinal studies available. This study also stressed the importance of time as a factor in determining the success of block scheduling. “Almost all of the results which indicated significant differences were shown after two or more years” (Wilcox, 2006). Clearly some time is necessary in order for students and teachers to become accustomed to the changes. Some of the school studies Wilcox (2006) examined had been operating on a block schedule for as long as ten years.
Unfortunately, not all the schools had baseline data for years before the block schedule or had opened with a block schedule. The study further stresses the level of support by the staff can be a determining factor as to the success of any type of block scheduling, which seems to correlate, at least on surface examination of the results, with training procedures and teacher confidence. 2. 2. 4 Actual Disadvantages to Block Scheduling via Research Studies
A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study studied achievement in reading and mathematics of students in a high school which ran a tri-schedule. This schedule consisted of a traditional schedule, a 4 x 4 schedule and hybrid schedules which all operated in the same single school. The NC state mandated tests in reading, language and math were used to determine achievement. For reading and language test results, there was no statistically significant difference based on the types of schedules. There was, however, a statistically significant difference in math computation subtest.
The traditional schedule saw slightly higher scores in understanding and retention of mathematical computation for tenth grade students. Thus, this study “supports the importance of daily instruction and contact time to student achievement in mathematics as distinct from other academic skills” (Veal and Shreiber, 1999). Another study tested students in the Wilmington area of North Carolina. It, too, found that students on traditional schedules scored higher on tests of algebra, English, biology and history than did students on a block schedule (Lawrence and McPherson, 2000).
2. 2. 5 Studies that were Inconclusive in Determining the Efficacy of Block Scheduling in Increasing Academic Achievement. A third North Carolina study, this one undertaken by the Department of Public Instruction, compared End-Of-Course (EOC) test scores in five areas (English I, Algebra I, Biology I, US History, and Economic, Legal and Political Systems (ELP)). It sample scores from schools that operated on block schedules and on traditional schedules for 1993 to 1996.
It mentions at the outset that the first schools to adopt block schedules in NC were those that had lower achievement scores to begin with. These schools’ scores were adjusted for the purpose of this study. The overall results were inconclusive. Some blocked schools showed some improvement in some years but then lower scores in other years. “At present, there are essentially no significant differences between groups of blocked and corresponding non-blocked school groups in terms of student performance in state EOC Tests” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, 1997).