Sunday, September 21, 2008

Best Practice and School Schedules

What is the best system of scheduling for college prep high schools? It seems the popularity of the block, carnegie, or trimester are often found in clusters of use throughout the country. In my own personal experience I have only taught at or been enrolled in a high school setting utilizing the carnegie unit or eight fifty minute classes per day. My current employer utilizes the carnegie unit and in general the faculty support this scheduling system.

The pros and cons of each system are interesting to consider. A few google searches on the topic turn up some interesting finds. One of interest was a parent lead coalition and website dedicated to reversing the implementation of block scheduling (link here). Their arguments against the 4 X 4 block focused on the lack of continuity in the languages, lower scores on AP testing (certain classes available only in the fall while testing is in the spring), lack of instructional minutes with the block, and teachers continuing to use lecturing as their primary pedagogical tool. Those advocating for block scheduling stress its ability to force differentiated instruction, reduce disciplinary issues, increase lab and hands on learning, while also increasing teacher planning time. Certain types of block schedules utilize alternating A/B days to stretch classes over the entire academic year limiting the risk of spacing and AP examinations.

The typical carnegie unit structure features seven to eight individual units of equal length throughout the day. Some courses are two semesters in length while others are only one semester in duration. The advocates of this structure push time on task and its correlation to learning as well as its ability to better sequence foreign language courses. Critics argue the system reinforces lecture based instruction and forces students to often take seven non related courses at once. Other criticisms point out the amount of time spent in management as a higher percentage of classroom minutes. Taking role and opening closing duties in seven classes is more percentage time than a schedule of four classes.

A growing number of schools are implementing a trimester schedule which in general features a course length of sixty to seventy minutes with five classes in a given day. A traditional two semester class is covered by utilizing two of the three trimesters. Proponents argue the schedule allows a traditional core curriculum to be covered by freeing up time for an array of electives (link here). Problems still arise in this model with the sequencing of foreign languages and scheduling core courses in available slots can be tricky. (What system of scheduling isn't tricky?)

What in general are the common practices among Catholic college prep high schools? Below is a link to a survey about common practices regarding student schedules.

Link to survey here: Link

What are your general thoughts and experiences with these various schedules?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham Alabama the school has adapted a schedule which has 7 periods of extended instruction. The adaptation is schedule resulted from faculty consultation, visiting other Catholic schools (with similar in client needs), and the realization that the schedule needed upgrading. The new JCCHS schedule incorporates the traditional 7 period Carnegie unit as well as 7 periods of extended instruction. There extended instruction periods are not referred to as “block” schedule. Comparing this schedule to other traditional schedules JCCHS has built in 90 minutes for Mass and spiritual life, an important component to JCCHS mission and Catholic Identity. While there are no perfect schedules, this schedule allows JCCHS to support its curriculum and allow teachers to have one period of time during the week to be with students for 90 minutes. The benefits of this schedule is supports the Fine Art, English, Science, Social Studies and Religion classes. This is the first year for the schedule and we are still gathering feedback from the vested stakeholders. The schedule replaced an 8 period inner/outer rotation.