Current Schedule Failing Teachers, Students

Ava Charlesworth, Staff Writer

With finals approaching, student anxiety is understandably on the rise. Especially worrying over student stress are the teachers who continue to address the various challenges of the block schedule.

By no fault of their own, teachers have been struggling to deliver the amount of curriculum traditionally covered as a result of the block schedule that the district 1st implemented in the 2017-2018 school year.  This has been a particular issue for many in the Math Department.

Math teacher Petro Petreas said he has “absolutely” been forced to cut “extra” parts of the curriculum that aren’t required but have always been valuable enrichment. “We have less time, we meet our classes less often, so we obviously cover less material,” he said.

According the Petreas, student retention is decreasing with the block schedule. Petreas said grade trends are “a little bit lower, and in fact, I can tell you that last year there were more D’s and F’s across the district as there were the year before and last year the average GPA was slightly lower also.”

I can attest from personal experience that finals have become significantly more difficult since block schedule began. Seeing my teachers less, especially in classes like math and science, has absolutely affected my ability to remember information from the beginning of the semester.

Frustratingly, there was a superior schedule format considered along with the format that ultimately was implemented by the district. It would have had regular 1-7 class periods for 50 minutes Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, and 2 days of block periods each week on Wednesday and Thursday, with 1 academy period a week.

This schedule is would have solved most of our current problems for a multitude of reasons.

1st of all, many students do not use academy periods to their advantage, streaming entertainment on their devices or hanging out with friends. Instead of being used as its intended purpose for test retakes and extra help from teachers, most students are simply taking an extra break twice a week.

Reducing academy sessions to once per week would still allow struggling students to receive “targeted intervention”, would provide time for test makeups, and would still offer study and homework time for those who need it and use it.  But scaling it back to just once a week would also  encourage less inclined students to use the academy time more wisely.

2nd, only 1 block period of each class per week is better than 2.  It is more important to see a teacher frequently than for infrequent though extended periods of time.  This is especially necessary in subjects that require daily practice like math and language.  Leaving students to fend for themselves with the majority of skill practice assigned as homework is laughable in a district that prides itself on student performance.

The current block schedule is also detrimental to student and teacher focus.  90-minute periods 4 times each week is daunting to even the most laser-focused among us.  Teachers labor to fill a 90-minute instructional session with engaging content, effective transitions, and “mindfulness” breaks.  The irony of course is that getting students to stand up, walk around and take a 5-minute break from intensive instruction and practice was built into the 7-period-a-day schedule recently discarded.

An extended period can be beneficial for long assessments, seminars, debates, and science labs, but that extra time is not needed on such a regular basis. A 90 minute class session once a week would address this need without turning the week’s academic schedule into an attention-deficiency marathon.

Finally, the current block schedule coupled with our affluent community’s propensity for finding every excuse under the sun to take students out of school (eg. vacations, college visits, sports competitions, field trips, sibling graduations, birthdays, anniversaries) is a recipe for failure.  No wonder the number of students on the D and F list has increased since this new schedule has been implemented.  Being absent is more costly than ever before.

Our current block schedule is inefficient for what our teachers need to accomplish and detrimental to student achievement. Shifting to a 2-day-a-week block system is the best solution.