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The Daily Bobcat

An assessment of the block schedule

Skye Sloane, The Daily Bobcat Staff Writer

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It’s been almost two years since Bowling Green City Schools instituted the block scheduling in its upper grade levels, and so now is the time to break down exactly what is and isn’t working with the relatively new schedule.

One in three schools in the US uses some form of block scheduling. Our high school’s approach is relatively unorthodox. It’s kind of like the school’s administration got a presentation on the benefits of block scheduling and then could only commit to half of it. Because most schools operate with one of two methods: an alternate-day (a.k.a. A/B) schedule, which is like our block days but constant (as in no eight-period days at all), or what is known as a 4×4 (four by four) schedule, where students are enrolled in eight year-long classes altogether for the school year but only take four classes a semester.

The block schedule undoubtedly comes with several benefits to the everyday student’s learning process. Potentially taking eight different courses a year should be exciting to any student, as it gives them a wider range of intellectual options. It’s also true that, if one did indeed receive eight credits a school year, one would be eligible for graduation credit-wise by the end of their junior year. With that said, the block scheduling can give students the opportunity to significantly accelerate their studies. With college tuition rates as high as they are, it would behoove any student to get as many of their general education college courses done as soon as they can, which a senior schedule with no real credit requirements could provide.There are also very specific classes, like science courses, that directly benefit from this schedule because block periods make regular labs much easier and more manageable than before.

However, it is important to note that all forms of block scheduling have disadvantages as well as advantages. Neither the A/B or 4×4 block formats are perfect, but comparing these two more popular forms of block scheduling to our own brings up the issue of consistency. As a student who has experienced sophomore and junior year under this schedule, I can say without a doubt one of its biggest flaws has to do with consistency, and that is that some teachers assign “block-day homework”, which is homework that is given on a block day that operates under the assumption that students will have an extra day to complete it. This, however, is not sound judgement for a number of reasons.

Say, hypothetically, that I have an English class during 6th period, meaning my English block will be on Thursday. Let’s also say that for the purposes of illustration, this same English teacher has 3rd, 5th, and 7th period classes as well, which are all the same course as mine. When Thursday rolls around, I find out that my English teacher has assigned a large reading to all of her English classes, but since my class is on Thursday, we have one less day to do the reading. This rightfully shouldn’t seem fair to anyone. And granted, I know plenty of teachers in our school are aware of this inequity; for every teacher there’s been that’s initiated a situation like the one above, there’s another who will say, “Okay, guys, here’s what’s going to be do by the end of the week,” on a Monday. The problem is, though, unless everyone is on the same page about the fact that certain students get more time than others to do certain assignments, there will always be students who have to strain to complete their work.

Another more widespread issue with block scheduling is that it doesn’t suit all types of classes. Being on this schedule gives us less time in each class than the seven period schedule did, even with the extended periods in the middle of the week. Think of classes like band and orchestra, which lost a significant amount of weekly rehearsal time under the block scheduling. That weekly loss can really accumulate over the course of the school year, and with an extra whole period’s worth of potential homework plus extracurriculars, students have less time to practice outside of school than they would otherwise.

Also, not every class is able to necessarily use the block period to its fullest potential because of the nature of the course. The first thing that comes to mind is physical education (because it would seem the goal of the class is to encourage daily exercise of some kind, which is interrupted by the block scheduling), though, having never taken the class myself, I can’t say much about it. Then there’s study hall, which seems like it could be either a blessing or a curse on a block day. A properly timed study hall would be able to help someone manage an assignment like the aforementioned 6th period English reading. But say I have study hall first thing in the morning on Wednesday. I haven’t been given any huge assignments by that point, hypothetically, so then that whole period turns into a 90-minute perusal of Instagram and Twitter. Not to say that would necessarily be a bad thing, but it’s just a waste of time. It’s not doing its job. If I sign up for a study hall, I kind of want it to be there as a helpful tool, not something that forces me to sit and stare at my phone for an hour and a half. But the decision on whether or not I can use my study hall to the fullest isn’t entirely up to me, but rather chance; there’s a tangible difference on the amount of help a first period study hall and an eighth period study hall can be.
Most of the problems with the current schedule come from the fact that it is neither a traditional schedule nor a block schedule, but rather a strange hybrid of the two. So my question is, then, why can’t the district commit to one or the other? The truth is, the other schedule was working for the high school and middle school just fine, but I assume the decision to move to the block was made because the school was attempting to modernize and give students more educational opportunities. That’s all well and good, but why not just make the switch to the full block schedule altogether? With the proper training, I have the utmost confidence that the teachers of the high school and middle school would be able to adapt their course to fit the constraints of the block period. However, unless a decision like this is made, there will be countless times in the coming years where students will be unjustly penalized by this schedule, and since it is the school’s goal to treat each student fairly, the administration will therefore not be serving its purpose.

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The student news site of Bowling Green High School
An assessment of the block schedule