In the 1990's one of the "ideas" the educrats had was to go to block scheduling for high school classes. 

This idea had been tried in the 1970's when I was a teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in the Houston Independent School District.  (I was a "crossover" teacher for a year and a couple of months until I could talk someone into getting me out of it!) Fortunately I quit teaching to raise a family before I had to engage with this dumb idea.

Of course, after a number of years (and a lot of wasted and misspent time for students and teachers,) the idea of block scheduling was abandoned, only to be brought back in the 1990's.  The people with these nutty ideas never give up!

I was on the Katy ISD school board then, and when I often say that I was especially useful at stopping things, block scheduling is one of them.

The first thing they had to do to get to the point where they could implement this time schedule (and these ideas weren't coming from the local administration--they weren't original ideas--they just heard of them in their colleges of education and in their staff development sessions)  was get rid of the "Carnegie Unit."

The Carnegie Unit was the block of time that had been used for over a half century in public high schools.  It was a time period of 55 minutes.  If one attended a public high school, one's classes, of which there were usually six, but sometimes seven, were 55 minutes long.  That gave the teacher time enough to teach the subject matter as well as to assign homework with time for helping the students.

In Katy ISD we were contending with such cockamamie ideas as "year round schools," "site based decision making, " "developmentally appropriate education,"  "peer tutoring," and so forth.  Some of those wacky ideas are still around because the people who espoused them then are still around.

Block Scheduling was seen as a panacea for getting students to learn, giving teachers more time with students, and so on.  In Katy I had a few allies, and some of them are still around.

Here is the argument I put up against the idea.  It's a pretty sound one, and I put it on here so no one forgets what's wrong with block scheduling.  Block scheduling was incorporated into the Outcome Based Education junk.  The purpose of it in that venue was to lessen students' time on task--in other words, if we're going to dumb down the students, what better way to do it than to spend less time teaching them stuff!

So here is what I tried to show the "committee" convened to rubber stamp the superintendent's plan:

If the class time is 55 minutes, multiply that by 5 days, and one gets 275 minutes.  Multiply that times 18 (number of weeks in a semester) and one gets 4,950 minutes of class time for one semester.

If the class time is 90 minutes, multiply that by 5 days, and one gets 450.  Multiply again by 9 (the number of weeks in a quarter) and one gets 4,050 minutes  (block scheduling was to be set up on a quarterly basis).

Subtracting 4,050 from 4,950 meant the student received 900 minutes less instructional time for each subject.  That is equal to 16.14 days less instruction!

If the student were to be absent on a Block Scheduling time schedule, he would miss a far greater amount of instructional time.

No one could argue about the time factor, and Block Scheduling went away in Katy ISD!  (at least while I was on the Board.)

I must give credit to the faculty members who agreed with me--mostly they were the coaches and the musical directors.  They could see that less time on task was not a good thing for their subject matter.  Most of the lead teachers for academic subjects were all for this scheme as it was designed, in my opinion, to give them more time in the teacher's lounge!

Sadly, over the years, I think they have whittled the time period to 45 minutes which in essence has created the same waste of time.  It appears that they had to lessen the time in the classroom in order to satisfy the dictates of the School to Work/No Child Left Behind agenda. It also occurs to me that they shortened the class periods so that my example of waste by comparison was no longer true!  Far fetched as that may seem, they are pretty canny about such matters!

But 45 minute classes if missed are not as significant as if a student misses a 90 minute class when absent, so there is that--unless of course, one factors in the dumbed down curriculum.  And that makes this whole discussion moot!

The bottom line is that IF we are serious about providing public school high school students with an academic education, I think we really should go back to the 55 minute class periods and get rid of all the things that get in the way of that focus.

Since the TEKS in Texas are calling for a Type I curriculum, it seems to me that going back to the way it was is the only way to accomplish what the law now requires.

See also:  Changing Time