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.