The blocks don’t fit: Re-assessing the double block schedule

Jacob Klionsky

As the clock struck midnight, it was officially Tuesday morning and I hadn’t even started the daily reading of Lord of the Flies. I had already finished my math homework, a science reading log, a Spanish presentation and notes on the Industrial Revolution, yet I still had more to do. With seven different classes the following day, I couldn’t let myself fall behind at the start of the semester.

This is the problem with the seven-period day; with so many classes to deal with, it’s almost impossible to keep up with all of them. For this reason, Redwood needs to reconsider implementing a double-block schedule.

Three years ago, Redwood teachers voted on this proposal. However, they missed the two-third vote requirement by 18 votes and the proposal was shot down. This new schedule would have included four block days a week, keeping Friday as a ‘regular’ seven-period day.

Since this 2014 vote, there have been minimal changes made to Redwood’s bell schedule. For this reason, every year there is a new debate about what Redwood’s schedule should look like. Reassessing the double-block schedule should be the first step towards creating a system that better fits the needs of students and teachers.

Redwood students already struggle with the rigorous classes that our school has to offer. Receiving homework in all these classes on the same days makes the problem even worse. With a double-block schedule, a student’s homework load would be spread out through the week.

Sophomore Renee Walker, a former Drake student, recently transferred to Redwood for the second semester of the 2017 school year. Although Walker found it harder to focus during Drake’s two-hour classes; at Redwood she has felt more stressed out with homework. For this reason she believes the double-block schedule is more effective for her and would be for Redwood students.

Denise Pope, the co-founder of Challenge Success, a program that advocates for the wellbeing of students, is a vocal supporter of the block schedule. She claims that it creates a “saner school day,” which slows the pace of school and reduces homework. In turn, the new schedule helps take some pressure off of students.

The block schedule doesn’t just benefit students, but teachers as well. While operating in 50 minute class periods, teachers are often pressed for time, while the 90 minute period allows teachers to incorporate more advanced learning activities.

Social Studies teacher Mr. Hirsch sees both sides of the argument, however began to lean towards the double-block after enjoying the six-week trial with the schedule in 2010.  

“[Redwood teachers] can find a way to make it work no matter what their schedule is. That being said, the block schedule gives significantly more flexibility,” Hirsch said.

Although there are many benefits to the block schedule, teachers from the language and math departments tend to feel otherwise. Math teachers such as Ms. Sugi-Louie believe that students can retain more knowledge if they meet everyday.

“It’s like pouring water into a bottle; students can only retain so much in one period. The rest just flows out,” Sugi-Louie said.

Additionally, it’s difficult to stay attentive for the long periods and students often can’t focus for the whole 90 minutes. On block Wednesdays during sixth and seventh period I find myself completely drained of energy and struggling to stay alert.

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Problems with block periods remain evident, yet they haven’t stopped nearby schools such as Tam, Drake and Marin Academy. These schools have implemented block schedules that are used at least four times a week, and have been effective in doing so.

Tam’s newspaper, The Tam News, is a strong supporter of the block schedule.

In the article “Tam’s Schedule In Debate”, The Tam News said,  “Since fewer, longer periods are a more efficient use of school time, there is no apparent justification behind reverting to the seven-period bell schedule.”

A secondary school in British Columbia, L.V. Rogers, has also reaped the benefits from the longer class periods, according to Education Update.

L.V Roger’s principal, Bill Reid, claims that since implementing the double block schedule, the graduation rate has increased from 73 percent to 90 percent, class attendance is up, and the failure rate has dropped dramatically.

Now it’s time for Redwood to rethink the double-block schedule. However, on this occasion the students should have a say, because at the end of the day we are the ones dealing with the effects of the schedule as much as the teachers.