Monday, October 09, 2006

Arggggg - Block Scheduling

I just got back from registering my niece at the local high school... what a frustrating experience. The school counselor was so condescending. I had to raise hell to get her enrolled in honors and college prep classes.

I also discovered that South Carolina uses some sort of block system. They have four periods a day. A class can either be a quarter class or a semester class. One semester class is equivalent to what I would consider one year of a normal class. For instance my high school math geometry class was a year long, but my niece's class is only one semester. Here is the conversation that followed:

Rory: So she could conceivably take two math classes in one year and do two years of math in one?

Dr. Counselor: Well actually no. Students are only allowed to take one core class of math or English a year.

Rory: Is it done like that in all of South Carolina?

Dr. Counselor: Yes, it makes it easier for students to transfer between classes.

Rory: Doesn't that affect how the students do in their classes, since many kids will have to wait anywhere from 6-months to a year between classes?

Dr. Counselor: Well maybe, but I have never looked into it.

Rory: Well I have seen the test scores, and that probably explains why South Carolina does so poorly on the SAT.
Seriously, it just seems idiotic. If someone has 1st semester algebra I in 9th grade that finishes in January, they might not get to do Algebra II until the 2nd semester of 10th grade… a full year between courses that obviously build upon the previous classes foundations.

When I went to High School, we had six classes a day. Math and languages were a whole year long. English classes were only a semester long, but you had to take at least one English class each semester… i.e. a composition class one semester and a literature class the next semester.

The other thing I learned is that the High School doesn’t do AP or IB classes at all. They actually have the local community college come in and teach a college course, in which they earn High School credit and college credit from the college.

I don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand it does make sense, since I know there is a problem with some AP or IB instructors not being qualified to teach. Of course they will never make Newsweek’s list of top High Schools in the Country since the rankings are entirely based on AP and IP results (let me know if I am wrong on this).

Another thing… I have to pay for my niece to take the PSAT as a sophomore even though it’s a requirement to get into the South Carolina’s Governors School for Science and Mathematics. I also had to pay a bunch of school fee’s… isn’t public education meant to be free?

Update: A little googling led me to this great site on the problems with Block Scheduling by Jeff Lindsay. To sum it up... block scheduling sucks for the following reasons:

1. Limited attention spans of teenagers
2. Time between consecutive classes creates needs for remediation
3. Its a bummer for athletes and music classes
4. Difficulty when school is missed
5. Problems transferring.
6. Math, science and Foreign languages are better taught in small regular doses instead of intensive long sessions.

Looks like I found my next crusade!

4 comments:

rightwingprof said...

Four periods a day? We had six. And the school in the next town had six periods but seven classes that rotated (I never did get exactly how that worked).

Jetgirl said...

I had the great luck to transfer from a block-scheduled Jr. High to a college-scheduled High School.

4 classes per day at 50 minutes per class. 4 quarters per year (not counting 2 summer sessions) with each "core" class lasting 2 quarters and each elective only 1.

They had it set up so that you could take a whole chain of core subject classes. For example in my 11th and 12th year I took physics, honors physics, and AP physics all in a row. Stacked with that was a math chain of pre-algebra, algebra, pre-calculus, college prep pre-calculus.

Charter schools are the way to go! (Though we did get sued quite a lot when people noticed that we were producing more competent college grads than other district high schools.)

Jetgirl said...

Hrm, I meant high school grads that were prepared (and going) to college.

Anonymous said...

I teach at a school with a block schedule. While I like it from a teacher's standpoint--1/3 less kids, more time to do more project work in class, etc. I do see the failures when it comes to the students. My school, however, does allow students to take as many core classes as they wish, as long as they take at least 2 (1 quarter) class electives. It seems like they are working very hard to fail if that is their attitude.