Block Scheduling in Large, Urban High Schools: Effects on Academic Achievement, Student Behavior, and Staff Perceptions

Article excerpt

Districtwide effects of the implementation of block scheduling were investigated in a large urban school district. This study contrasted ten high schools with block scheduling and 13 high schools utilizing a seven period rotator schedule on key indicators of student achievement and behavior. In addition, surveys elicited the observations and perceptions of classroom teachers, guidance counselors, and school principals on the changes associated with a switch to block scheduling. Results indicated that students in block scheduling schools earned more A's, fewer C's, D's, and F's, and higher grades in advanced mathematics courses. On no measure did non-block schools outperform block schools. The findings also provided confirmation that block scheduling models are perceived as successful by staff. The majority of teachers reported that they implemented a variety of new teaching techniques, increased the number of learning activities, experimented with different student evaluation techniques, and provided more individualized attention. Guidance counselors agreed that students do better concentrating on fewer subjects, have time to do more in-depth study, have been able to enroll in the classes needed to graduate on time, and are able to pursue the electives that interest them. Principals indicated that the provision of leadership and professional development opportunities for staff was crucial for successful implementation. Broward County Public Schools will encourage other high schools in the district to explore the option of adopting block scheduling, expand distance learning and other strategies to support test review sessions, and increase support to staff at schools with block scheduling through significant professional development opportunities.

As educators across the nation face the challenge of school reform, the most common and significant transformations underway are structural modifications to the traditional school day such as block scheduling. Rather than having students change classroom locations, subjects, teachers, and activities six or seven times each day, many high schools are offering students and teachers the opportunity for in-depth concentration on fewer subjects each semester by using longer blocks of instructional time. Although block scheduling is not a novel concept, this and other alternative scheduling models are receiving renewed interest as mechanisms to support the delivery of teaching and learning methods associated with improved student performance. As schools and districts search for effective schoolwide reforms, evidence supporting the utility of various models of block scheduling is rapidly accumulating as evaluations of the processes and outcomes associated with various scheduling changes are conducted.

Broward County's Philosophy

Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) is a large, linguistically and ethnically diverse, urban school district located in Southeast Florida. As the fifth largest school district in the United States with over 200,000 students, 11,000 teachers, and 23 high schools, BCPS has responded to some significant challenges. Large pockets of poverty, high student mobility, an increasingly diverse population of limited English-speaking students, and severe overcrowding are among the increasing challenges that continue to face our school system, fueling the desire for transformation and the need to press for broader changes.

One of this district's major system priorities is to improve student achievement and school effectiveness. Other priorities address growth, diversity, security, technology, and training. To address these priorities, a comprehensive system of school improvement and accountability based upon the performance of students and educational programs was established. Utilizing this framework, the School Board and the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Frank Petruzielo, expressed their commitment to improving the delivery of educational programs in the district's schools by determining those methods that best support student achievement and school effectiveness. …