MANCHESTER – There was positive feedback from both teachers and students after Manchester Township High School’s first year using block scheduling.
Director of Student and Administrative Services Alex George talked about the program and shared results from a year-end student and teacher survey at a recent Board of Education meeting. It’s all about using time more efficiently, he said.
George, who three years ago served as principal of Manchester Township High School, said they ran a 3-year pilot program in Language Arts and Social Studies then added in some other departments to give everyone a feel. Then, last year was the first full year of the block scheduling.
“We’ve gotten away from the memorization of facts and a lot more into problem solving, high level thinking,” added George.
The block schedule typically breaks a student’s classes down into two semesters, with four classes from September to January, and four classes from February to June, instead of seven classes all year long. “It’s almost like college,” he said.
A major perk that nearly 90 percent of students approved of was having the option to take an 8th class. Along with the new scheduling also came new classes across the board in Science, Social Studies, Math, Art, Music and English.
Out of the 389 students surveyed, 70 percent said they felt there was more time for in depth discussions and 61 percent said they learned more thoroughly. Overall, the students also felt that more technology was able to be used, their grades were better and that the school day was less stressful.
Seventy percent also reported that they got to know their teachers better.
“Any time that we can get our students more in line with the teachers, building a better rapport, being able to think more critically, being able to problem solve more, and actually teachers working with fewer students, those are all good things,” said George.
On the flip side, 81 percent of teachers said they were able to give more individualized instruction. They also reported getting to know their students better, felt they were more engaged in the learning process and saw less behavioral issues. Fifty-eight percent said they felt they were being more effective teachers.
“It all still depends on what happens in that classroom, the teachers interacting with the students – that’s still the key,” said George.
Two key indicators of the block schedule’s success were that referrals for in-school and out-of-school suspensions dropped, and that more students were passing classes at the semester point than in years past.
One downfall was that the school did not see a significant increase or decrease in kids not being in school. “We hope to see a bigger increase in attendance next year having gone through the process,” said George.
Although there are no plans yet to roll it out to other schools in the district, George said Manchester Township Middle School students already have double periods for math and language arts, so it is not an entirely new concept to them.