Block scheduling remains the best of Kaneland’s scheduling options

By on April 3, 2010

by Kaneland Krier Editorial Board
Kaneland News Bureau

Kaneland—Imagine having nine classes throughout the day—all year. Not only would there be five more classes than we’re used to and more than twice as much homework, but four of those classes would be core classes: math, English, science and history. Don’t forget to include gym. All. Year. Long.

Or maybe it would be an A-B day schedule. There would be four classes on one day, and five the next, and the schedule would switch every other day, and we’d end up with nine classes.

Or—the Holy Grail of options—the hybrid schedule. Not only would we have to remember everything on the mind of an average teenager, but we’d also have to remember this: spending Monday, Tuesday and Friday on a traditional, nine-period schedule, going to a version of STEN on Wednesday, followed by four long classes, and on Thursday, we would all go to the other five classes we didn’t get to go to on Wednesday. Now there’s something students want to have on their minds all week: which classes to go to, which homework to remember, what day it is.

Some things are too good to be true … block scheduling isn’t one of them. Why mess with something that students like the way it is?

The decision to review block scheduling “came out of our school improvement committee. We knew we needed to invest in research about other scheduling opportunities. It was supposed to be assessed five years ago,” Assistant Principal Diane McFarlin said. “We wanted to find out about other opportunities.”

Some administrators and staff members have been doing site visits to other schools with schedules different than Kaneland’s.

“We’ve done a really good job at taking a look at our options,” McFarlin said. “We’re spending a whole faculty meeting discussing our findings.”

We appreciate that the faculty is looking at this and trying to make it better. McFarlin said that several math teachers have voiced concerns about students spreading out math classes to where they aren’t having any math for a year at a time, and it’s really great that the staff is addressing those concerns with such in-depth research, but we hope their findings prove block scheduling to be the best choice.

Even the freshmen, who are tackling their first year of four grueling, one-and-a-half-hour classes, prefer the block scheduling.

The block schedule makes it “easier to keep up with the homework,” freshman Morgan Newhouse said. “There aren’t as many classes to worry about, so there’s less stress.”

Though many students prefer block scheduling, including freshman Paige Nachreiner, there are some downsides.

“The classes are really long, and sometimes you don’t do anything,” Nachreiner said. “But I don’t have a lot of homework, and you have more time to talk to your teachers.”

Which is why block scheduling should stay. Students get less homework with block scheduling, which is important because we have to balance our homework on top of everything else. And don’t forget finals: nine finals at one time? It’ll be a good time trying to study for all of those.

There’s no way to pick a perfect schedule type. Different classes need different things. It’s important to have math all year so students are prepared when the ACT comes around junior year, but it would be impossible to complete a chemistry lab in less than an hour. No matter what type of schedule Kaneland has, there are always going to be bumps in the road.

Imagine trying to accomplish something in a forty-minute class period, like finishing lifts in PFT. It would take a week for students in a speech class to complete just one of their speeches.

Either way, students are responsible for themselves, so if they’re concerned about their PSAE and ACT scores, they’ll be smart enough to figure out that they shouldn’t neglect core classes. The school isn’t responsible for those students and their test scores.

But here’s another thing: the administration is worried about making AYP standards, and a lot of people think the reason we don’t every year is because some students aren’t taking consecutive math or science classes. In the end, though, no one will make AYP. Not Geneva, not Batavia, not St. Charles. No one … because the standard goes up and up and up. Next year, the standard will require that 80 percent of students are passing the test, which is never going to happen. We’re in the ‘academic warning’ zone, which sucks, but in a couple of years, everybody else will be, too.

We all understand that making AYP is important, but aren’t the students more important?

If we have nine-period schedules, say goodbye to AP classes. No more AP Spanish or French; no AP calculus. The only way anybody would be able to squeeze by into an AP class is if they were already in advanced classes starting in elementary school and continuing through middle school, so by the time they reach high school, they’ll be ready for Algebra 2.

If any schedule shifts were to take place, they would happen starting in the 2011-12 school year. Currently, the faculty has “completed the research, and now we’re summarizing our results. The next step is to come to a consensus and say ‘OK, what will work for us?’” McFarlin said.

“We want to do what’s right for kids,” she said. “Our kids, our needs, the world is different. Everything’s different. We want to do it right.”
Just a hint: leave it the way it is.

One Comment

  1. RM

    April 3, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    I attended high school in the 1960’s-70’s under the traditional school system. We didn’t have AP classes. Teachers taught to a high standard. We never had 9 classes. Often 1 period was a study hall. We had plenty of homework but it was not overwhelming. I don’t see kids do a fraction of the work I did in high school.

    I think the block system is good if it’s used appropriately. But reread what Paige said. “Sometimes you don’t do anything.” Some teachers don’t know how to use block scheduling to it’s fullest advantage. The whole point was a more intensive study to better learn the subject matter. Having a large part of the class to do homework or nothing at all defeats the purpose.