Effects of a High School Block Scheduling Program on Students: A Four-Year Longitudinal Study of the Effects of Block Scheduling on Student Outcome Variables

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ABSTRACT

Block-scheduling is a growing response to demands for systemic change in high schools. This longitudinal study examined a controversial block-scheduling program in a small, mid-western city. Findings were based on "hard" data only, for example, grade point averages and attendance, and not attitudes and perceptions. Data were collected on 500 students with from 0 to 3 years in the program. While not all the data relationships were significant, all that were significant involved a positive relationship with time in block scheduling. The findings were supportive of the block-scheduling program.

INTRODUCTION

Within the context of education reform, one of the attributes of the traditional educational system that has been a focus for systemic change has been the use of time. While some efforts have focused on, seeking ways to add time to the academic year and the academic day, other efforts have focused on redeploying the time already in the calendar. One set of efforts has centered on the daily schedule modifications commonly called "Block Scheduling" in which modifications are made to allow for larger (typically 80 to over 100 minutes) blocks of time per class/subject period.

There are a number of variations because schools that adopt such a plan are not bound to a particular pattern but can adapt it to meet their unique circumstances. Nonetheless, several variations are more common than others. The two most common ones are the 4 x 4 schedule and the AB schedule. In the 4 x 4 schedule, four extended length periods are scheduled for each day and students typically take four courses each semester-hence 4 by 4. Each semester course in this variation is equivalent to a full year course in the traditional 8 period day. The AB schedule typically has the same 4 period day, but all courses are taught all year long, on alternate days-the A day schedule has four classes and the B day schedule has four different classes.

Over the last decade, a number of studies and evaluations have been done on block scheduling in which some have found evidence of improved student achievement. Others found no significant

improvement or a significant decline in achievement. In 1996 the Office of Program Evaluation for the Chesapeake Public Schools reported that, in the high school studied, failure rates declined in 60% of the school's departments and the percent of A's and B's increased (p. 5. See also Mutter, Chase, and Nichols, 1997). A 1997 study commissioned by the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium in Richmond, VA found that grades seemed to improve under both AB and 4 x4 block scheduling although more so in the 4 x 4 schools (Pisapia and Westfall, p. 27). David Snyder presented a paper at the 1997 Annual Meeting of MWERA, in which he reported there was significant improvement in student grades of the high schools studied. More students were on the honor rolls under block scheduling than during the baseline years before block scheduling (p. 4). Stanley and Gifford in their review of the literature on 4 x 4 block scheduling cited nine other studies that found that intensive block scheduling resulted in improvements in student achievement (1998, p. 8). R. Brian Cobb, Stacy Abate, and Dennis Baker (1999, February) in a study of a junior high block scheduling program that had been in operation for four years, reported consistently higher grade point averages. This was true in all subject areas studied except mathematics where students in block scheduling performed less well than those on the traditional schedule. Going further they noted that the data suggest block scheduling has a more positive effect on male students than female and on Ioth and 11th graders than on 8th and 9th graders (p. 15).

On the other hand, Guskey and Kifer in a 1995 interim report presented at the AERA annual meeting noted that grades generally remained much the same after the introduction of block scheduling at the high school studied (p. …