A School That Runs on a Different Clock Manhattan High School Boosts Grades with Classes Lasting 100 Minutes Series: URBAN EDUCATION New Schools of Thought. Fifth in a Series. Previous Articles in This Series on Urban Education Appeared on Sept. 7, 12, 14, 19

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THE word traditional is not often used when describing New York City's Manhattan International High School. The desks in the dimly lit classrooms are not arranged in the grid pattern of conventional schools, but in ovals so four students can work together on projects. The teachers do not lecture about history or math for 40 minutes but lead discussions about Revolutions and Encounters for 100 minutes. And the international composition of the student body would make even UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali sit up and take notice. Olga Marte and Ramon Castillo are from the Dominican Republic, Marcin Tomasik and Nina Sosnicka are natives of Poland, and Alan Sadovnikovas is of Lithuanian descent. More than 40 countries are represented at the school, which admits only students who have been in the United States less than four years. But what makes this school stand out from the many other multicultural public institutions is its innovative scheduling format. Manhattan International is one of the first schools in the country to successfully bring block scheduling - the use of two or more periods for the extended exploration of complex topics - into an urban public school system. Between 10 to 15 school districts in New York State currently administer some form of block scheduling, estimates Alan Ray, director of communications for the New York State Education Department, and there are positive signs that it spurs more in-depth, college-like discussions in the classroom. "We get to more, get more depth," says Olga, an 11th grade student at Manhattan International. "This school is different from other schools because we learn and share ideas with each other as well as with the teachers. With the old schedule, by the end of the day, you had to try to remember what homework you had for first period." BLOCK scheduling is gaining support not only in New York City but also around the country, because it is a low-cost, long-term way of improving America's financially strapped public school system. "Schools have to make a commitment to systemic, long-term change, and block scheduling is a significant way of improving their overall standards," says Charles Santelli, director of policy for the New York State United Teachers, a union. In a block-scheduling study done at Brockport High School in upstate New York over the 1993-'94 school year, Donald Nelson-Nasca, a recently retired professor of educational administration who has studied block scheduling, found that the school gained 42 days of instructional time over the course of a school year by implementing the concept. "For every hour of the school day, almost 10 minutes of potential instruction time is wasted when students pack up their bags and head for the next class," says Dr. …