Except for whole language reading, it is perhaps the most dangerous of the progressivist viruses in our schools: it forces teachers into long project and activity sessions even when best judgment suggests an instructivist approach is indicated for a given unit or topic.
If your school is considering lengthening class periods to 80 minutes, with four classes per day, or thereabouts, read the links below to learn what will may to your child's education as a result.
Of special interest, Elmhurst citizen and parent Marcia Tsicouris is managing a website devoted to block scheduling issues. It is focused on current battles in Elmhurst, but will be of interest to all Chicago suburban parents: A Parent's Voice
Quotes on Block Scheduling
"Students in semestered courses in secondary science in British Columbia do not score as well on reliable and valid, standardized science instruments measuring academic performance derived from course objectives. ... The research described above included a very large number of students (over 28,000!!) and the results left absolutely no doubt based on probability of error (one has to go out to the 10th decimal place to find anything but 0's in the probabilities!!) While there may be many advantages to semestered timetables and course structures, ... the academic performance of students appears to suffer. Every other piece of research on this subject that I am aware of is based on testimonials, and not on actual student performance data. Based upon what I found during that study, and from examining the data of subsequent assessments, I cannot academically support a semestered timetable."
-- David J. Bateson, Ed.D., Univ. of British Columbia, reporting on his study of 28,000 students in a "semestered" schedule in which a year's worth of material is covered in a single semester with double-length periods.
"Texas Education Agency researchers say they can find no proof
that longer class periods -- used in the block scheduling approach
in Texas high schools -- have resulted in improved student learning.
The findings are contained in a new 54-page study prepared by the TEA's
research and evaluation division ... The authors also acknowledged the
arguments of critics who complained that block scheduling actually
reduces instructional time over the school year -- and that teacher
and student concentration is weakened over a 90-minute period."
"What a waste!..I vote no! Block scheduling is great for administrators...
not teachers and students."
"...why can't (we find) even one well-designed, peer-reviewed,
longitudinal study showing that in the long run Block Scheduling
actually helps academic performance?"
"One of the most dependable findings from psychology holds up in
classroom research: that 'spaced' practice over several lessons...
is superior to equal amounts of time spent in 'massed' practice"
"My ... son was placed in a pilot program in 6th grade for block scheduling.
Classes met for 90-minute periods 3 days per week... This program has since
been discontinued ....it didn't work. In nearly every class, again,
the last 20-30 minutes were used for homework.
... The students have a difficult time concentrating on one subject
for the full 90 minutes. Most parents I spoke to about this were also
dissatisfied with the children's progress. Again, the lack of continuity
seemed to be a major problem....especially in math classes, where
continuity and daily practice are essential to successfully mastering
"I teach 7th grade English on an A/B block schedule this year, but our
superintendent just announced a change back to 7-period days for next year.
"The school that I teach at participates in a Math Rally every spring. For
the past seven years ALL the schools that use block scheduling finish at the
bottom, by rather sizable margins, no less. Since the beginning of the
competition, no block schedule school has ever won or taken second.