Block Scheduling Coming to Marsteller

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?


8 Responses to “Block Scheduling Coming to Marsteller”

  1. jackie4678 Says:

    Very good article! How many years of data will PWCS wait on until they realize how detrimental this effort is? We’re in year four of MI, and they still seem willing to continue with these failed programs. I am beyond disgusted.

  2. Parent of 3 Says:

    It find it sadly ironic that the same kids subjected to Math Investigations are now the subject of this new experiment. My child was in the 2nd grade when MI started and is supposed to enter Marstellar for 6th grade with this new experiment. MI proved, following a fad isn’t responsible education.

  3. jackie4678 Says:

    I have a rising 6th grader going to Marsteller as well. If I had known THEN what I know NOW, my kids would have been homeschooled. Even the majority of private institutions implement these failed fads. Those calling the shots in the curriculum department need to be reined in – not happening in this district – even with a School Board of 8 supposedly representing our kids’ best interest. Feh.

  4. Give me a Break Says:

    Detrimental? Are your children going to not get into college because of this? Will it impact them in a significant way? The answer is of course not.

    As for homeschooling, what makes you think your are better at educating your students than a school of paid and certified professionals. If you think you can do a better job go for it. My guess is that will be more detrimental than anything this school board has done.

    Do they make mistakes? Sure But I’m sure you have to at your job. Leave it to the professionals to educate your kids or teach them yourself. Otherwise your just complaining.

  5. Mom2-2 Says:

    GMB – If you take the time to do some research, you’ll realize that some children may not be able obtain the degrees they want because of the instructional programs our county is following. Look at the declines in our pass advanced scores since TERC / MI was mandated. The kids who score advanced on the SOLs are tomorrows engineers, chemists, and physicists. These kids won’t have the skills necessary to obtain those degrees if we continue down this path.

    As for your comment about homeschooling and homeschoolers, I suggest that you do more research. Homeschooled kids are outperforming public school kids left and right.

    No one has questioned the commitment of our teachers. We know they do their best with what they’re given. Unfortunately, the tools the district has provided our teachers coupled with central office’s unwillingness to allow those teachers adapt as necessary to meet their students needs are the primary reasons our kids are being left behind.

    Our teachers deserve better programs. Our teachers deserve central staff and administrators that responds to them and their concerns. Our teachers deserve more than they’re getting from our district.

    As a parent it is my right, no, my responsibility to complain when the school district my children attend disregards them and their needs. It is my job to question the recommendations of the certified professionals when I disagree with those recommendations. That’s my job as a parent because no one cares more about my kids than me ; No one has a greater responsibility for ensuring that my kids succeed than me.

    Every professional gets questioned about the recommendations and decisions they make. That’s part of being a professional. If teachers or administrators have a problem with parents asking questions about what is being taught to their children, then they need to consider a different field.

  6. jackie4678 Says:

    GMB ~ Mom2-2 is spot on.

    I never questioned the qualifications or dedication of our teachers. Please don’t imply that I did.

    I question the decisions district officials are making – like block scheduling at Marsteller and turning a blind eye to the dismal student performance data we (not the PAID professionals in central staff) present over and over again.

    Study after study has shown that block scheduling is detrimental to student learning (see the links in the article).

    Emails have been circulating recently ~ emails from district teachers strongly opposing block scheduling. It’s such a shame teachers can’t voice their concerns directly without the fear of retribution.

    If parents and teachers oppose a particular program, central staff ought to reconsider. That’s what real professionals do – they act like professionals, explain the recommendations and decisions they make, and don’t get their knickers twisted because someone dares to ask a question.

  7. Jeff Lansing Says:

    I would love to see that research about homeschoolers Mom2-2. Could you post a few links directing me to that research? Thanks

  8. Jackie Says:

    Block scheduling (for info only, not action) is on the School Board’s agenda for June 2nd. The Board meeting will start at 7pm at the Kelly Leadership Center and can be viewed on Channel 18 (Comcast) or at any time thereafter at (“video on demand”).

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