Block Scheduling and Georgia Elementary Students' Academic Achievement: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

In this study we examined the effects of parallel block scheduling on the reading and math achievement of elementary school children in South Georgia. The sample for this study comprised students who were in the third, fourth, and fifth grades between the school years of 1993-1998. A total of 825 test scores were analyzed for block students, and 695 test scores were analyzed for non-block students. No statistically significant differences were revealed in reading and math achievement between (1) third-grade students who experienced parallel block scheduling and third-grade students who did not, (2) fourth-grade students who experienced parallel block scheduling and fourth-grade students who did not, and (3) fifth-grade students who experienced parallel block scheduling and fifth-grade students who did not. Implications of our findings and suggestions for further research are discussed

A compelling concern in elementary schools, as well as in middle and secondary schools, is the manner in which instructional time is utilized. Although varying types of scheduling have been attempted over the years, educators do not agree on a single type of scheduling in which optimal use of instructional time is provided for teachers and for students (Canady & Rettig, 1995; Snell, Lowman, & Canady, 1996). Indeed, many forms of scheduling do not incorporate all of the elements necessary for effective student achievement and for effect use of instructional time.

In the past, a priority of instructional scheduling was to group students by ability levels or to track students (Canady, 1990; Canady & Reina, 1993; Canady & Rettig, 1992) and to allow for special education pullout programs (Snell et al., 1996). Researchers have cautioned schools about the negative effects of ability grouping (Canady & Rettig, 1992), though encouraging the inclusion of special education students (Snell et al., 1996). Accordingly, parallel block scheduling was developed and implemented to utilize instructional time effectively for all students of all ability levels (Canady, 1988, 1990; Canady & Reina, 1993).

Parallel block scheduling has been defined as a restructuring effort in the redistribution of personnel and resources such as space and time within schools (Canady, 1989, 1990; Snell et al., 1996). When implemented in the elementary school, teachers provide instruction to two groups of students. Both small group and whole group instruction is provided. Students receive instruction from two teachers. One teacher provides math and language arts instruction, whereas the other teacher provides instruction in social studies and science (Canady, 1988, 1990; Canady & Rettig; 1995).

Some researchers (e.g., Canady, 1988,1990; Canady, & Reina, 1993) have asserted that parallel block scheduling allows for more teacher-- directed instruction than possible in traditional instructional schedules. Accordingly, parallel block scheduling has the potential to promote educational improvement for all students. Moreover, these researchers contended that parallel block scheduling facilitates more flexibility in teaching a diverse group of students than does the traditional form of scheduling with self-contained classes. Proponents also maintained that this model of block scheduling permits students to work in heterogeneous groups as well as in homogeneous groups, and to receive equal instructional time for reading and math (Canady, 1990; Canady & Reina, 1993).

The small group instruction that arises from parallel block scheduling has been found to induce more interactive teaching and far less unsupervised seatwork activities, such as worksheets that were common in the traditional model of scheduling (Canady, 1988, 1989, 1990). Apparently, the cessation of self-contained classes allows for more support services to be provided by special education teachers and other staff. Parallel block scheduling also allows a common planning time for all teachers within a team (Snell et al. …