BLOCK SCHEDULING CHANGE ON FRONT BURNER - Calhoun Board Could Make Decision Tonight

By Bob Weaver

Nine years of block scheduling at Calhoun Middle-High School could be changed back to a seven or eight period teaching day.

The issue could come to a vote tonight at the Calhoun Board of Education meeting.

Calhoun school board president Lee Evans said the meeting will have an open forum to discuss the possible change, inviting concerned parties to the table.

"I expect several parents to express their views," Evans said.

The board postponed a vote during a February meeting, saying they were willing to listen to all sides and obtain more information regarding a change.

Block scheduling has challenged the traditional high school schedule that emerged in the early 20th century with about half of USA schools using some form of "block."

Proponents for block scheduling claim higher student achievement, better daily attendance, and improved school climate and discipline.

Those who favor a seven or eight period schedule say it improves retention of information, adds Advanced Placement courses, improves student achievement, and allows for greater diversity.

Calhoun Middle-High School principal Karen Kirby said most teachers have mixed feelings about the issue, saying "It needs to be studied in depth," before making a change. Kirby presented board members a hand-out regarding the issue.

"Block scheduling loses 900 minutes of instruction time. Do the math," said Evans, while other board members said the issue is a major complaint from parents.

"I believe changing back will give students better educational opportunities," he said, contending block scheduling has not shown marked improvement in student achievement.

"We could have more electives that are currently blocked out," noting that Wirt, Braxton, and Wood Counties are using period scheduling. "Gilmer County wants to do away with block scheduling," Evans said.

See Calhoun Board Discusses Possible Change

Principal Karen Kirby issued a number of considerations the board should make before abandoning block scheduling:

High School Considerations

With a 7 period day students lose 1 credit a year

- Students may be counting on 8 credits this year to graduate
- Direct adverse effect on graduation rate
-Current graduation requirements are 26 credits (4x7=28)
- State department is adding more required courses-Civics and Chemistry

An 8 period day will be a maximum of 47 minute classes

- A minimum of 45 minutes is required to meet mandated minutes
- Purchase of additional textbooks - Social Studies, Math, English, Science, Health, will all need to buy additional textbooks: Approximately $20,000 for textbooks
- We will need to purchase Civics textbooks this fall (Aug. 2007) $5,000
- In Aug. 2008 we will be changing from CATS 9 and 10 to Science 9 and Biology

Career Center and Gilmer County High

- The Career Center courses will be ending and starting on a block schedule due to EOC exams required
- JoLynn Wilson; she is at CHS August - mid January and Gilmer mid January - June
Loss of ability to take advanced sequential math courses

- On a traditional schedule students will take one math course per year: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II and Trig would be the normal 4 year progression. Currently students may also take pre-calculus and calculus
- Loss of the Algebra I model

Slow learners and special needs students benefit from block scheduling

- Fewer classes a day and more time in each class.

- Chemistry and science classes will lose lab time

- Additional time to prepare and clean-up in art and vocational classes

Middle School Considerations

Policy 2510 requires core subjects be taught within a block of time not less than 225 minutes daily of which a minimum of 80 minutes are reading/language arts.

- 225-80=145, 145 minutes divided by 3 core subjects is 48 minute classes

Loss of Middle School Teaming due to scheduling and shortened planning periods

Considerations for both wings of the building

Shortened planning periods will ...

- Be a loss of time to conduct trainings during planning time
- Be a loss of time to learn new technology
- Increase substitute cost
- Less time for SAT meetings and parental conferences
- Preparing 6 or 7 lessons of higher thinking skills
Grading as many as 125 to 130 papers at a time