Don’t Change What Isn’t Broken

Imagine a school with students that stay in a classroom for an hour and a half at a time and only address half of their subjects a day. Missing just one day of school, currently an inconvenience for students who are sick, involved in sports, or taking advantage of the enrichment field trips offered by various departments, becomes a crisis.

This is just one of the many concerns about the implementation of a block schedule, which appears likely to happen in the Acalanes High Schoo District beginning in 2017-2018.

In a study done by UC Berkeley, the “spacing effect,” the method of studying in short sessions each day, proved more effective than compressing studying into one long session. This method’s proven benefits, currently reaped by Campolindo students in the traditional 50 minute daily class model, will be lost if gruelingly long, infrequent course periods are applied with the block format.

The Berkeley spacing study results were supported by a study at the University of California San Diego, where a test of three hundred people similarly revealed the method’s effectiveness.

Another problem is that, because block scheduling only includes three to four periods each day, it tasks students with comprehending two day’s worth of material in a single day. The fact that this method limits the amount of time for review of material is also a concern. By not reviewing concepts or practicing skills on a daily basis, students may not effectively acquire them for long-term use.

Routine, especially for students who have difficulty with organization and time management (i.e. teenagers), is a good thing. The traditional 5 day, 50 minute period model provides this. The block system adds another nuance to what is already a complicated life for students who move from room to room, subject to subject and teacher to teacher. Will having to recall a variety of schedules help decrease tardies? Not likely.

Unfortunately, it appears the district is moving forward with this misguided attempt to address student stress.  Principal John Walker said, ” I’m excited about the transition. However it’ll be a lot of work.”

Walker also said “nothing’s finalized yet.” The school governing board is expected to meet in November to further discuss various block schedule options formulated by a committee comprised of teachers, parents and students.

We urge the district to reconsider its move toward a block schedule.  Campolindo has distinguished itself with high student achievement both academically and athletically, has earned state and national recognition, and is the jewel of a community known best for its outstanding schools.  The other district schools are also among the best in the country. Don’t change what isn’t broken.