Do teenagers learn better studying three or four subjects at a time in longer class periods? Or is it more effective to take more classes at once and see every teacher for a shorter class period?
These are the questions the Lodi Unified School District board of trustees has begun to wrestle with, but no decision was made as to whether a block schedule or a traditional schedule allows for more effective learning.
Lisa Kotowski, curriculum director, Dawn Vetica, assistant superintendent of secondary education, and Ed Eldridge, assessment coordinator, gave a presentation comparing the academic scores of students at McNair High School, which follows the block schedule, and the combined scores of students at Lodi, Tokay and Bear Creek High Schools, which follows traditional schedules.
Block scheduling signs students up for four 90-minute classes a day, which they take for one semester. In traditional schedules, students take six or seven shorter classes a day, but stay in the same course for the entire school year.
The team compared nine color-coded charts to explain to the board of trustees the results of learning in each style of class schedule.
It seems that students may do worse in a block schedule, at first glance.
Ninth-grade students taking Algebra 2 in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years at McNair dropped in math skills. More than 60 percent of students who came into the course with a basic skill level had dropped to below basic level in one year.
Students who took the same course in a traditional schedule seemed to do better. All students who came into the course with a basic skill level either improved or maintained their scores in one year.
Two voices advised the board to include teachers in any discussion to alter schedule types at any high school.
“The schools that chose not to go into a block schedule had their reasons,” said Susan Heberle, a retired Tokay High School science teacher.
Jeff Johnston, president of the Lodi Teachers Association, agreed and asked the board to make room to hear from teachers along the way.
Trustees agreed they needed more time to dig into the information provided. The board asked Kotowski, Eldridge and Vetica to bring the information back to a future meeting with more analysis and possible conclusions.