Block schedule classes run like the multi-hour science labs you might recall from high school or college. Some schools use them. Many don’t. As part of KERA’s American Graduate initiative, here’s a look at the difference a schedule can make.
It’s the end of another class period at O.D. Wyatt High School in Fort Worth ISD. Only here, that means something different, because most periods at Wyatt last twice as long other high schools in the district.
“Research shows more time given to students, that’s the way to go,” says Wyatt’s principal, Louis Washington, Jr. He likes the block schedule, where the first three classes every day last 90 minutes instead of 50. Core courses are taught every other day.
“Now that’s research ... and especially with our kids in a low socio-economic area, they need that," Washington said.
Two thirds of the 1,200-plus kids at O.D. Wyatt come from low-income families.
Some students, including 16-year-old Mikella Edwards, in language class, like the schedule.
“Because in block schedule, if you have core classes, you get more time to do the work for the next time you go that class," Mikella said.
Edgar Delgado sits next to Mikella.
“In regular classes, I get tired of going to the same class every day,” Edgar says. “It’s just boring. But in block schedule, I got to go to class, not the next day, then again. Like each time, it’s not like the same schedule all the time. It varies.”
But boring goes both ways. Alexis Smith, in O.D. Wyatt’s 10th-grade nursing class, doesn’t like the long class periods.
“It’s too long,” she says. “You get bored, and then you stop listening.”
Classmate Alondra Volazco agrees.
“I don’t like the five-period block schedule because it’s 90 minutes and it’s longer and kids get more distracted,” Alondra says. “And it’s going to disrupt the teacher and it’s going to give everyone a harder time than it should.”
Alondra and every student in this class is here by choice. These kids picked this class, in this school, with the goal of becoming a nurse, and getting college credit.
On second thought, Alondra alters her take on the block schedule, but maybe only for this course.
“During this class, it does help when it’s 90 minutes, because we learn a lot of new things that we’re not used to learning," Alondra says. "And it would take us longer to get it in our heads. So it actually helps during these type of classes.”
This handful of students here give the block schedule mixed reviews. Fort Worth’s only other high school using it is Trimble Tech, so students in the career and technical education classes there can take internships.
O.D. Wyatt adopted the schedule with grant money a few years back and Washington, the principal, says the approach needs time to work.
“If you go 50 minutes and that teacher is top notch? That teacher’s going to make it happen,” Washington says. “But the problem is, that teacher that’s top notch will tell you 'I need more time, because I can be double top-notch.' And research supports more time.”
Washington says teachers also need to spend more planning time to make the block schedule work, and that’s part of what he’s working on.
More on block scheduling
Block scheduling emerged in the 1990s and it's still used in various schools throughout Texas and the U.S.
Here is one teacher's take on block scheduling.
Also, here's the National Education Association's review of research on block scheduling.