Block schedule takes toll on students’ engagement
Switching from seven quick-paced, 45-minute classes in middle school, to starting high school and having four eighty-minute classes is a silent killer to some students’ motivation and attention span. Is the extensive time in each class really necessary? No. Why exactly is the bell schedule laid out the way it is, and is it really the most efficient for students’ motivation?
Administrator Anthony Scorsone has refined the block schedule for years, and he explains the common questions students may have about the demanding schedule, starting with the confusion behind the length and placement of the extra “study time” or FLEX: “The block scheduling is a state-mandated thing, so we couldn’t really change that even if we wanted to.” Scorsone explains. “The bell schedule is quite a bit different from when the school first opened; there was no FLEX… FLEX has only been around for around 6 years, starting at 20 minutes every other day, to then every day… eventually leading to 40 minutes every day.”
The length of FLEX seems to be the biggest disruption to the flowing of classes.
“I like the length of FLEX, but I don’t like where it’s placed. I think I would work much more efficiently if it was placed sometime in the morning rather than in the middle of the day.” Says Brianna Borgeson (9). “FLEX is that much longer (double the original time) because most teachers actually explained they would prefer a longer FLEX for students to get more done, such as making up long tests, and they didn’t feel as though the original 20 minutes was long enough,” Scorsone explains.
So why is FLEX placed in the middle of the day? “Well, we chose to put it in the middle of the school day because students weren’t using time effectively, such as taking an extended lunch when FLEX was placed right before,” Scorsone says.
Concerns around whether or not the school actually needs eighty-minute classes have been a discussion amongst students and educators worldwide. Because school starts at 8:40 AM every day, students are required to wake up a few hours before ideal so they won’t be late, which already causes stress and annoyance due to the lack of sleep teenagers can obtain. Therefore, having to try and stay awake during extremely drawn-out periods of time can cause disruptions in attention spans: though students may seem awake, and active in taking notes, the matter of if they’re actually able to obtain the information they learned over the course of the class period is at the question.
“I don’t think there needs to be a full ninety-minute lecture time per class, I think it’s difficult for students to have an attention span that lasts that long. I believe if the class was split up in some way where half of the time could be a lecture and the other half was given to students for classwork to help understand the material, classes would feel much more efficient,” explains Joie Platt (11).
“I just know if I were a student I would perform much better if there were some sort of student-centered cooperative learning group going on rather than having to listen to someone talk for an entire class period,” Scorsone says. “ Hopefully teachers realize that students need that differentiation.”
However, there is always room for improvement.
Scorsone states, “Though I believe the current bell schedule is the best for student productivity by far, I think the room for improvement can be implemented by me talking to students about their opinions on the bell schedule currently so we can make the best decisions for the bell schedule next year.”