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Victoria high schools to return to traditional class scheduling

By Carolina Astrain
March 10, 2013 at 8:03 p.m.
Updated March 10, 2013 at 10:11 p.m.


Block scheduling pro and cons

PROS

•  Teachers see fewer students during the day, giving them more time with each.

•  Longer class periods work better for science labs and other cooperative learning activities.

•  Students have less information to deal with on a school day.

•  Students have less homework.

•  Teachers are able to provide more varied instruction during class.

•  Planning periods are longer.

CONS

•  Students lose class continuity on their off days.

•  If students miss one day, they actually are missing two lessons.

•  Students spend more time doing homework in class.

•  Research indicates students' academic achievement suffers under block scheduling.

Source: About.com secondary education page

Victoria high schools are switching back to a traditional class scheduling the district dropped three years ago.

When Victoria East and West high schools opened in 2010, they adopted block scheduling. Under this system, students attended half of their classes on one day and the rest on the next. The length of all classes expanded from about 50 to 90 minutes.

"At that time it was because of the travel time needed to transport students from the Career and Technology Institute and Victoria Center for Advanced Learning," VISD spokeswoman Diane Boyett said. "It also afforded students the opportunity to get eight credits a year instead of seven."

Starting the next academic school year, the Victoria school district will go back to a traditional seven-period day, with the option of an eighth period for students who are taking credit recovery classes.

District officials said they are making the change to increase the high schools' 91 percent attendance rate and raise their academic rating of academically unacceptable.

Superintendent Robert Jaklich, who joined the district before this school year, said officials realized some students were missing more frequently on certain days of their alternating schedules.

"We've been studying this for the last eight months. It's active dialogue between the superintendent cabinet," Jaklich said. "We've been going to the schools and talking to principals from all grade levels."

The new scheduling will require transportation changes to match the district's two Career and Technology Education campus schedules.

These courses will remain 90 minutes long but take up two class periods in the new schedule.

In order to maximize the amount of time students spend in classes per week, each of the career campuses also will be staffed with three core subject teachers to reduce the back-and-forth travel time.

The time spent traveling between campuses will be made up by the advisory period usually scheduled before or after lunch.

Dual-credit classroom time will be reduced, in some cases, to 50 minutes from the current 90-minute periods to fit the district's new schedule, said Jennifer Yancey, Victoria College vice president of college advancement and external affairs.

"They would actually follow VC's main campus schedule much closer," Yancey said. "Under block scheduling, they used the extra time in class to study or do some more practice work."

Victoria College offers dual-credit courses to 21 different high school campuses, Yancey said. "Some are on block, and some are on a seven-period schedule."

The high school day will still start at 8:15 a.m., but the day will end 10 minutes after the current last bell of 4 p.m.

The day would be extended an hour longer, ending at 5 p.m. for students taking the optional eighth period for credit recovery classes.

"It'll make their day 10 minutes longer, but it will make the day seem shorter," Boyett said.

Taylor Salinas, 17, a junior at Victoria West High School, said she welcomes the change.

"It's going to be better because we'll have a shorter time period spent in class," Taylor said. "And it'll be easier to catch up with our work, too."

With the block schedule, students see their teachers every other day, learning the equivalent of two days' material in one class period.

But not every student shares the same sentiment.

Ricardo Medrano, 15, a football player at Victoria East High School, said he will miss the extra class time for finishing his homework. When the district adopted the block schedule, officials said then that it would help students involved in extracurricular activities and provide a collegiate experience.

"We're not going to have enough time to finish our work," Ricardo said.

Arlene Perez, 44, an East English teacher who has taught at VISD for the past eight years, said she remembers the days of regular, day-to-day schedules at Memorial High School's freshman campus before the two high schools opened in 2010.

"It seemed to work out fine then," Perez said. "Now, my students will be writing five times a week, which will help them score better on" standardized tests.

East principal Greg Crockett said the switch would benefit both teachers and students.

"We've transitioned through different schedules before, and we'll do it again," said Crockett, who was the principal at Memorial High School before the split.

Calhoun, Goliad, Refugio, Cuero and Edna high schools all have regular class schedules, varying from seven to eight periods a day.

Brian A. Bottge, a University of Kentucky special education and counseling professor, was part of an early study on block scheduling when it first appeared on campuses in response to the 1997 re-authorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

"It's not so much the time block that affects achievement as it is the quality of instruction within the time frame," Bottge wrote in an email. "If 90-minute blocks are used in schools, the teaching lessons should be developed to use the whole 90 minutes."

Robert Lynn Canady is an emeritus professor at the University of Virginia and considered the grandfather of block scheduling.

"For most people who are leaving it and going to a seven-period day, it's a budget issue as much as anything," Canady said.

Boyett said the switch comes at no cost to the district.

"It's actually a more efficient system," Boyett said.

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