Block Scheduling is Coming to Marsteller Middle School
We’ve received a number of emails recently relating to a change in scheduling at Marsteller Middle School, and, based on these emails, parents and teachers are not happy.
Currently Marsteller students follow a daily schedule of classes in Math, English, Science, History / Social Studies and an every other day (or block) schedule for Gym, Music, and other electives. That means that Marsteller students spend one hour each day in Math, English, Science, and History / Social Studies, and 1 1/2 hours in either Gym or Music (or another elective).
Next year the school will be changing Science and History / Social Studies to follow a block schedule and allocating additional time to Math and English. That means that Marsteller students will spend 1 1/4 hours each day in Math and English, 1 1/2 hours in either Science or History / Social Studies, and 1 1/2 hours in either Gym or Music (or another elective). The school’s justification for this change is that it will place greater emphasis on the topics which are used to gauge AYP.
A number of questions / concerns are raised by this move.
(1) Marsteller does not and has not had any difficulty reaching its AYP targets. In fact, Marstellers test scores are among the highest in the district. Why change a program that is clearly working?
(2) Marsteller is currently a Math / Science hub. Will the school be able to remain a Math / Science hub if students are getting 25% less science instruction?
(3) Reducing instructional time for certain topics means that teachers may be forced to teach classes they aren’t certified to teach. For instance, a teacher certified to teach History / Social Studies and English may have to teach a MS math class. With studies showing that over 50% of our MS Math teachers aren’t qualified to teach MS math, how will the district ensure the teachers who teach our children are qualified to teach the subjects they teach?
(4) The is no actual evidence that block scheduling is effective at improving student learning. None. There is, however, plenty of evidence that block scheduling doesn’t work (see Block Scheduling in Texas High Schools and The Case Against Block Scheduling).
(5) Numerous studies have demonstrated that people, especially teenagers, learn best in 50 – 60 minute increments – that students taught in 60 minute classes had greater retention and knowledge of the topic than students taught in 75 or 90 minute classes. Knowing that, why would we establish schedules that exceed to 60 minute golden period?
The district has demonstrated time and time again that it likes to follow every educational fad that comes along, no matter how much evidence there is that those fads don’t work. Math Investigations and block scheduling are the latest fads our district has bought into.
The problem is that these fads actually hurt our children because the fads deprive our kids of the education they deserve. The old adage if it ain’t broke don’t fix it still applies. The instructional program at Marsteller is doing quite well. Block scheduling undermines student learning. Why change the program at Marsteller if there is no reason to change and implementing that change might actually cause harm?