Why more high schools should have a block schedule

This post is part of a collaboration with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

When I started teaching in 1995 at an alternative high school in Chicago (a school that gave dropouts a second chance at a diploma), we were on a block schedule. I saw students every other day for about 90 minutes a class. I hated it.

As a new teacher then, I found it difficult to plan to engage students that long. And this is the era when we still had VCRs—I was still buying music on cassettes—so showing a video clip to add some variety or depth was complicated. I had to go to Blockbuster and pray they had the movie I needed.

Back then, with an emerging World Wide Web, without YouTube, without TED Talks, teaching high-school students for 90 minutes every other day was hard. Add to all of this the fact that our students missed school A LOT—like 1-3 days a week—and a block schedule made teaching nearly impossible.

But a couple of years ago, I became a loud voice in favor of a block schedule. After a union-member vote where 52% of our staff voted in favor of a block schedule, my high school on Chicago’s Southwest side changed from eight 50-minute periods every day (I taught five of those periods every day) to a schedule where we only have 4 periods every day.

Each period is now 90 minutes. I love it, and students like it too.

According to the National Education Association, these are some benefits of block schedule:

  • Students have more time for reflection and less information to process over the course of a school day.
  • Research found students retain information longer.
  • Teachers see fewer students during the day, giving them more time for individualized instruction.

To read more about why block schedules are better, click here for the NBPTS blog.

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