Opinion: Block Scheduling: The Best Option for NDP?

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Reagan Berry and Kathryn White work on an experiment during a block schedule period. Source: ndpsaints.org 

After this year’s changes involving daily schedules, NDP administration is working to improve scheduling policies for both students and teachers. When it comes to new ideas, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks when it comes to implementing a daily block schedule at NDP and other high schools.

Many research studies have demonstrated the benefits of a fully blocked schedule, and many public and private schools implement this policy. However, there are some disadvantages to this approach for Notre Dame Prep specifically. 

“All schedule types have benefits and drawbacks,” Assistant Principal for Academics Emmy Robison said. According to Robison, benefits include permitting more time for students to complete tasks in class, allowing classes to delve deeper into content and experiential learning opportunities and reducing the number of classes students have to prepare for each day. 

“A scheduling committee of … dedicated teachers has been meeting since the beginning of the school year to discuss potential schedule changes,” said Robison. Priorities of the committee include to increase productive class time, reduce students’ stress and prepare students for college. 

The scheduling committee is taking into account schedules that have been implemented by NDP and other schools in the past and analyzing current scheduling policies. The current schedule involves three eight-period days and two block days. Administration has “considered every type of schedule, including block scheduling every day with fewer but longer classes, as well as a rotating schedule,” said Robison. 

Robison and the scheduling committee have also investigated the drawbacks of a fully blocked schedule. For instance, “some teachers need support in utilizing the potential of a block and not just giving ‘work time’ for tasks,” said Robison. In addition, some teachers are concerned about having less contact points with their students during the week. With a fully blocked schedule, teachers would see students only two or three times each week as opposed to four or five times each week. 

Though some may argue that less contact points during the week is harmful, it may actually improve student performance. According to Michael Reddig from the School Superintendents Association, when schools transition to a block schedule, “consistent evidence shows that students’ grades improve and the number of students on the honor roll increases.” For instance, one North Carolina study compared the performance of students in blocked versus unblocked schedules using statewide end-of-year examinations in Algebra, English, Biology, US History and Social Studies and deduced that student performance improves with block scheduling. 

According to the National Education Association, the three main types of block scheduling are the alternate day schedule (meeting with each class every other day), the 4×4 plan (meeting for four ninety-minute blocks every day over four quarters) and the trimester plan (taking two or three courses every sixty days to earn six to nine credits per year). 

The alternate day schedule would likely be the most effective variation of block scheduling for NDP. It would allow the school to maintain its traditional semester-system while giving students and teachers longer classes with more time in between to complete homework, projects, studying and test preparation. 

According to “Research Spotlight on Block Scheduling,” the most noteworthy modern study regarding time in the classroom and learning is “Prisoners of Time” from the National Education Commission on Time and Learning published in 1994. Overall, this is the best-researched piece in support of “longer school days, a longer school year and more time dedicated to learning.” 

Notre Dame “[hopes] to have a solution soon that works well for everyone,” said Robison. Overall, a fully blocked schedule could be a viable, beneficial option for NDP.