There is an item on the agenda for the June 2nd school board meeting about block scheduling in Prince William County Schools. It’s an info item, which means district officials will brief the public and school board on their plans to implement block scheduling in our schools.
The district has already decided to implement block scheduling in all middle schools. I highly doubt anything will change that decision. But we can ask questions and demand that the district justify its decision.
Block scheduling is where students attend a different mix of classes each day. Under the PWC plan, which is a modified form of the traditional block schedule, each class will be 90 minutes long and each instructional day will have four “blocks” of instructional time. One block will be Math, one will be English, one will rotate between Science and History, and the last will rotate between PE, Music / Art, Foreign Language, Technology, and other elective courses. Because PE is required at the MS level, one of the rotating courses in the last block will always be PE while the other will be Art, Music, Technology, Foreign Language, or another elective course depending on the semester, student’s grade level, and interest.
Here are several questions I’d like answered:
- Why are we moving from traditional to block scheduling?
- Some of our schools already follow block scheduling. What empirical evidence do we have from those schools that following a block schedule has improved student learning? By empirical I mean test scores, not anecdotes.
- If a student is out sick one day and misses his / her Science block, he /she won’t have another Science class to make up missed work for several days. What plans do we have to help students cover the material they missed?
- This is a new program in many area schools. Block scheduling has been tried in other districts with less than favorable results. What are we doing differently which we believe will result in an increase in student learning and what plans do we have to monitor the program and adapt it if test scores do not improve or decline?
- We’ve heard quite a bit from district teachers about this program. Many of our teachers are concerned that the program will reduce student learning and retention, especially in foreign language classes which require exposure for fluency. Other teachers are concerned with strategies for keeping student’s attention as teenagers have notoriously short attention spans. What are you doing to address these concerns?
I don’t know if these questions will be answered. I, and my colleagues, have asked them of school administration and have yet to receive a response from anyone. Citizens are welcome to address the school board. If you have any questions you’d like answered, you can address the school board on the 2nd and ask your questions.