Monday, April 05, 2004


When outcome-based education took over public schools a decade ago, along with it came some bad ideas, including block scheduling.

The basic concept -- fewer classes that meet fewer times a week but last twice as long -- was put in place in many Nebraska high schools. It was touted as a great innovation for math and science, and for special purposes such as combined, intensive, advanced English and history instruction.

The idea was to give teachers more time to deliver more intensive, higher-level curriculum to today’s diverse classrooms in longer time periods.

Instead of the classic lecture and Q&A format, block scheduling was sold as a team approach that would allow more group work, in-class time for project preparation and presentation, adequate time for scientific experimentation, flexibility for the teacher to work with struggling students while advanced students worked on their own, and so forth.

Suuuuuuure. What it really did was dumb school down. A few people saw it, back in the ‘90s. Now everybody does, and the trend is back toward traditional class schedules.

A Sunday Associated Press story out of Harrisburg, Pa., has the headline, ‘’Philadelphia-area school district finds block scheduling doesn’t deliver higher test scores.’’

With intense pressure on school districts to improve math and reading test scores under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, administrators in the Coatesville district near Philadelphia have concluded that providing four nearly 90-minute periods of ‘’block scheduling’’ hasn't helped.

In February, the school board approved a return to a schedule of seven periods of approximately 40 minutes. The change will take effect next school year.

A science teacher was quoted in the article as saying block scheduling was ill-suited to quality teaching because you have to introduce so many concepts at one time, the kids get inundated.

Other teachers have said it’s very difficult to keep the attention of today’s kids for that long a time, because TV and other outside influences have wrecked their concentration power. So they ‘’tune out’’ for some portion of the 90-minute block-scheduled class. Some think it’s a pretty significant chunk of that class time. Meanwhile, if you get sick and miss a week of school, there’s twice as much to catch up on.

The science teacher also said that when teachers give up lectures, kids never learn how to sit still, listen, think as they are listening, and take accurate notes to improve comprehension. Their thinking skills suffer. That shows up as lower achievement and lower test scores.

So what was sold to the public as a way to make kids smarter actually makes them dumber.

Additionally, it is thought that block scheduling was pushed on high schools as a way to free up big blocks of time so that teens would be free to go to job sites for ‘’school-to-work’’ apprenticeships instead of sitting in class all day.

So another good reason to get rid of block scheduling, besides the fact that it turns kids into blockheads, is that going back to a traditional class schedule will ‘’block’’ the ability of the educrats to dumb down school to the point where it’s merely job training . . . and no longer a real education.

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