How block scheduling helps students

2013-08-06T00:00:00Z How block scheduling helps studentsShelley Klein / Commentary Santa Maria Times
August 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

News articles recently have contained comments about how the block schedule is not helpful for our Santa Maria High School students. I would like to share how the block schedule allows for students to advance.

Let’s look first at students who come to the high school with a fourth-grade reading level. Two-thirds of the incoming ninth-graders at SMHS tested below grade level. On the block schedule, many of these students would be assigned to our very successful Reading Plus class for 95 minutes in the fall. Then, depending on how well they progressed, they may be assigned a reading improvement class or freshman English in the spring.

If they are assigned freshman English, the students are on track. These classes are taught and taken sequentially, learning the beginning curriculum, then the more advanced curriculum in order.

The student may be placed in a remedial English class, for about 50 minutes each day, and then not move on until the next year. Or, in some schools, the student is given the freshman English class and a remedial English class at the same time. The remedial English class is supplementary, and the curriculum is not sequential, as the classes are taken at the same time. These students are usually stuck taking these remedial shadow classes their entire high school career.

The same idea works for students who come to high school recommended to be in pre-algebra. Many of these students can be assigned pre-algebra in the fall, then take algebra in the spring. They are now on track. This is more complicated on a 5-2 schedule, as they may take pre-algebra their freshman year and then algebra their sophomore year, or be assigned algebra and a math support class. Unfortunately, due to funding this year, we cannot guarantee the pre-algebra to algebra sequence in the same year.

This same process works for English language learners. On a block schedule, students can be placed in English language development (ELD) class A/B in the fall, and into an ELD C/D class in the spring. The curriculum is taught and learned sequentially. On a 5-2, they would be in an ELD A/B class all year and move up the next year, or they would be assigned ELD A/B and C/D at the same time. Can you imagine taking the beginning class and the intermediate class at the same time instead of in order?

For college-bound students in the math and science areas, they can double up their senior year. We have students taking math analysis and calculus, or physics and anatomy, therefore completing two years of math or science in one year, and doing it sequentially. This can be done with other classes, and allows students to meet the A-G college requirements.

I have more than 21 years of teaching at SMHS. I see the block schedule as helping students advance through the curriculum sequentially. This is helping rather than hurting the English language learner, remedial student and college-bound student, although is it not perfect for every student. No schedule can be.

I am proud that our staff has been empowered to continually examine, develop and vote on our school schedule. I hope the district administration, parents and community will allow us to continue to be in control of our schedule to do what is best for our students, as seen by our improved graduation rates, improved A-G course completion rates and improved API scores.

Shelley Klein is a math teacher at Santa Maria High School.

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(9) Comments

  1. George Bailey
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    George Bailey - September 01, 2013 3:52 pm

    I agree with the brilliant and eloquent Justin Case. We have to use our resources wisely, and one only has to look at posters like GSE to see what happens when a brain is not developed properly.

    A brain is a terrible thing to waste.

    Mr. Bailey
  2. gse360
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    gse360 - August 15, 2013 7:41 pm
    Then instead of "No on Maldonado" it should of been Yes you voted for Capps didn't you
  3. ShelleyTeach
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    ShelleyTeach - August 12, 2013 4:44 pm
    You are correct. Every student does not come to use with the same skill set and I would like to see how you can individualize 66 lessons each day. There will need to be a trade off as we push ALL students into college prep classes and hold them to the rigor. What will happen to our graduation rate? Does the public really believe we can take a 14 year old reading at a 3rd grade level and have them at the 11th grade in 4 years? And the same would follow in science, math, social sciences? Teachers have a very complex job and could use the support of the parents and the community instead of feeling like they are being ran over by a train.
  4. ShelleyTeach
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    ShelleyTeach - August 12, 2013 4:41 pm
    I am sorry that your personal experience was negative. That does not nullify the research or data that shows positive benefits. Second, it is not easy. I teach 20 minutes more per day than if I was on a 5-2 traditional schedule. Third, discussing my pay is misleading, it took me 10 years as a teacher to reach the starting salary I had as an engineer. I do not teach because of the money, but because helping students learn is what I love. I am in my classroom until 5 pm each night, and shoo out students to go home. I just attended an inservice on 21st Century Skill where more collaboration time, critical thinking and longer projects are suggested. The block schedule allows for this. I also polled the 5 students in my room today - yes - at school today and they like only having to focus on 3 or 4 classes and the review for AP and SAT and CST that teachers do, on their own time, in the spring to keep the students knowledge fresh. Both of my children enjoyed the block schedule and said it better prepared them for college classes. Everyone has their own opinion and there are more than two sides to every story.
  5. Justin Case
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    Justin Case - August 09, 2013 12:10 am

    Here’s a great idea;

    How about these “students” learn the English language before they illegally sneak into our country and enroll in our high schools! After all, a FREE education is a terrible thing to waste…

    Would save a lot of our tax payer money!

    Just saying,

    El Justino Caso


    Vote NO on Maldonado!!!
  6. runchasqui
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    runchasqui - August 08, 2013 1:56 am
    The Block Schedule is not allowing many of our students to be prepared for the future. The data that you included only benefit a small percentage of students (take one course level the fall semester and go to the next level for the spring semester). Many students stop learning English, Math, Science and Social Science at the end of the semester, and they don't get the next level after 8 months or even after 13 moths!!
    The Block Schedule is a joke! It is an easy schedule for the teachers, and does not challenge our students! My child went all four years with this insane schedule. Many times my child came home with no homework because the teachers allow the kids to do their homework in class instead of teaching new concepts!!! I had to hire tutors after school to prepare my student for the STAR Tests, AP tests, SAT Exam, etc. Our students need to study the main subjects all year long. I could have bought a car with the amount of money I spent on private tutors! No wonder many teachers prefer to send their kids to SJHS, Orcutt Academy, or RHS! Get real lady Shelley! It is time to work! You get pay a lot!
    Please SMJUHSD Officials and School Board members, do not allow the Block Schedule to continue damaging our students' future. The most affected are the ELD students at SMHS and PVHS! Enough is enough!!
    I am just one of many concerned parents!!
  7. John D
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    John D - August 07, 2013 11:12 am
    I have to question whether a motivation among educators to let students proceed through the cirriculum with their peers isn't a big part of the problem. Too many of the students I've seen in my community college classes are effectively illiterate even though they must have a high school diploma or equivalent to enroll. In my state at least, that's largely because educators are bullied by parents and lawmakers to promote and graduate students who don't deserve it. Until we seriously consider why our students cannot perform and, refusing to let ourselves be bullied into slapdash solutions by non-educators, take the painful steps necessary to correct the problems, we are not serving our students.
  8. ShelleyTeach
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    ShelleyTeach - August 06, 2013 6:09 pm
    First, there are several pros and cons to every schedule and I just presented one of the reasons I support it EVEN though I teach 20 minutes more per day. Second, in 2004 SMHS was on the block AND don't forget that Pioneer High was built and the class of 2007 was split with half (more of the historically higher scoring students) went to Pioneer.
    I agree all students need literacy and numeracy skills along with an understanding of a democratic society to be successful after school. When using data, please compare our school scores on the SATs to SIMILARLY demographic schools (not the state average). I found on Ed-Data the 2010-11 SAT results showed SMHS testing 22% of students compared to the district average of 22% with a total score of 1417 vs the district of 1469. When you take into account the demographics (the average parent at SMHS has not completed high school according CA CDE, ELL, SED, etc.), SMHS is doing well compared to SIMILAR schools.
    Also, the scores, I believe, have more to do with the demographics and incoming 9th graders scoring low in reading than the schedule. I love looking at data, but I must remember that it can only show relationships (and there are many variables) but cannot show causation.
  9. uscmom
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    uscmom - August 06, 2013 6:48 am
    Granted your job is a tough one with two-thirds of 9th graders testing below grade level.
    But your argument that the scores have improved because of the Block Schedule is a little bit suspect.

    In 2004 Santa Maria High had 51/793 grade 12 students score 1000 or better on the SAT.....6.4% of grade 12 students........ average reading score 435 and Math score 480.

    In 2012, Santa Maria High had 30/578 grade 12 students score the average 1500 or better on the SAT......5.1% of grade 12 students.......average reading score 432 and Math score 488

    Only 5% of your students have average scores on the college entrance exam, compared to approx 18% statewide.

    I don't know what the real reason is the teachers want to retain the block schedule other than fewer courses/periods/students/per semester, but we have to prepare more than 5% of our kids for the demanding work and competition that lies ahead after high school. We are spending an awful lot of money to just turn out 5%. Even if they don't go to college, they must have some basic skills to secure a decent job.

    We can't just keep insisting Hancock teach high school coursework a second time......the money will run out!

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