Research on Block Scheduling
David H. Vawter
Below are some of the findings from schools around the country. Please note that not all schools will
experience each advantage. Also as in any change there may be initial drop off in some areas. Our
experience has demonstrated that schools that take a year to research the change, and then a year of
planning and training, will find some success the first year. The new schedule should be given three
years of implementation, change and adjustment before full comparison studies are conducted.
Within two years after a high school moves from a daily, single-period schedule to an A/B (WHS) or 4/4
schedule, the data indicate that:
The number of discipline referrals to the office is reduced significantly.
Initially, there is greater stress for teachers until they learn how to plan and to teach in a larger
block of time, but eventually the school environment becomes less stressful for both teachers
About 80 percent of the teachers in the school lecture less and gradually engage students in
more active learning structures; therefore, students become less passive in their learning.
The number of students on the A, B Honor Roll increases. In the 4/4 plan, there also may be an
increase in the number of students making F's.
The number of class tardies is reduced.
The majority of students will say they like school better.
Some students often labeled "at-risk" will more likely stay in school; this is especially true in the
In some courses, such as mathematics, teachers probably will cover less material; however, they
report that the material which they do teach is taught better and taught in greater depth. Again,
this finding is more likely to occur in the 4/4 plan.
The number of interdisciplinary teams and studies is likely to increase with block scheduling.
Most teachers will plan lessons that include at least three different activities.The most difficult
aspect of a lesson plan for teachers seems to be (a) developing and implementing the
application phase of a lesson, and (b) managing the transitions within the block.
Graduation rates will at least hold; they are more likely to increase with the 4/4 plan than with
the A/B plan.
Both student and teacher attendance will likely improve.
In the 4/4 plan students are likely to complete more courses than in the A/B or single-period
In both the A/B and 4/4 plans, foreign language teachers report difficulty covering the
equivalent of two classes of material during a double-length period.
Curriculum adjustments need to be made with block schedules, especially with the 4/4 plan, to
accommodate pacing issues and the more in-depth study that hopefully occurs. For example,
some students may need to be expected to take additional math courses! The students in the
4/4 plan enrolling in additional math courses seem to be of two types:
a) those who fail a course and retake it, and
b) those who take math courses, such as statistics, for enrichment.
The way teachers are assigned to schools can be a problem with the 4/4 plan; for example,
when schools are assigned faculty slots by subject areas, that can be a problem when and if a
significant number of students take additional math, music, or foreign language classes either as
retakes or for enrichment.
There is inconsistent data relative to the amount of homework completed in block-scheduled
schools. Some teachers report more, and some report less!
In one 1995 study being completed in Minnesota related to student-engaged time, the
preliminary results indicate that, surprisingly to some, students in longer block-scheduled
classes had a higher engagement rate than did students in the shorter, traditional schedule. This
appeared to be true for all subject areas, including mathematics. NOTE: We strongly suspect this
occurs only after teachers have received assistance in developing lessons to engage learners!
Unless special plans are in operation, students experience difficulty in recovering from absences.
There are, however, some indications that because of this factor "the more motivated students"
have fewer absences.To solve the attendance problem of real "school haters," we will need to
do more than to provide them with a block schedule.
There is some evidence that math performance under a block schedule may drop initially and
then improve; we suspect this is a pacing issue that can be corrected.
To date, there is evidence that AP scores will hold or improve with block schedules. The
difference in the 4/4 plan may depend upon how AP classes are scheduled. In some schools AP
classes are one semester; in lab classes they are two semesters, and some AP classes are
scheduled for 27 weeks. Additional study related to these various time allotments is needed.
In spite of some challenges which block scheduling presents teachers, themajority of them
report that, after experiencing it for two or moreyears, they are favorable to it, and students are
There have been two studies out of Canada that show some drop in scores. While we think that these
studies in many areas support both our contentions about the negatives of traditional school scheduling
and the advantages of block scheduling, we find the studies suspect. You can view our response here.
Response to the Canada Study
To Persons Inquiring About the Bateson Study Reference in Jeff Lindsay's Web Site:
Please note that the author of the Bateson study was quoted by Meg Sommerfeld in Education Week
May 22, 1996 as saying that teachers in Canada did not change the way they taught classes and the
teachers did not receive much training. "If you don't change teaching methods, any of the benefits that
are supposed to accrue don't come about. It could be if time and inservice education is provided, it is
quite possible the results will literally reverse themselves."
1. There are now hundreds of articles, case reports and research studies about block scheduling
and the vast majority of the studies are positive. First, the articles against block all come out of
Canada, where there are many other research reports that favor block. Second, there are no
major studies from the United States that are negative to block schedules.
2. Under the rules (agreed upon parameters) of statistics Dr. Bateson is correct when he states
that his study showed statistical significance. However, a study is just that: an attempt to find
out more information about a subject. We must be careful when generalizing from a totally
different school situation in Canada to our schools in America.
a) The Canadian government is aware of those studies and they have continued to support
b) The students in the study were not randomly chosen which presents many threats internal
c) In statistics there is a technique called "power". This technique may be performed prior to
the study to determine how large a study needs to be to show significance. In the Bateson
study the number of subjects is so large that a very small difference would be "statistically
significant". Many beginning stat books warn of the difference between "statistically"
significant and "educationally" significant. His study was so large that while it is statistically
significant the difference between the scores has no real significance.
3. Some of his data could be used to support block scheduling. For example,
a) The difference between full year and second semester averages is less than one question in
some sub-tests. Is less than one question a real difference? Is it an educational difference?
b) The difference between full year and first semester averages is just over one whole question
in some subtests, and less than that in other subtests. Is a one question difference a real
c) THIS IS THE BIG ONE: The test was given in May. The school year ends the third week of
June. The full year students had received almost 90+% of the entire course, and the second
semester students have only received 80+% of the course. That could mean semestered
students did as well, or better, with less of the course!
d) What about the bigger difference between first semester and the full year students? (That
whole, one, question). Some research tells us that the normal retention rate over a three-
month summer is 85%. The first semester score is only one or so questions less than the full
year; and that is a retention rate of over 90% after a longer time span than a summer.
e) If students who failed the course the first time, were allowed to take the course again, and
then were tested twice and included in the sample, this would skew the distribution. To be
fair the F students in the full year course should be counted twice.
There are other problems, but I hope these thought are helpful.
There is a concern over SAT scores that have declined in a few places. There is plenty of evidence of
other places where SAT, ACT, and AP scores go up. At Wasson High school where a small drop was
experienced, they also had large increase in the total number of students at the school that were on
free/reduced lunch. Many schools have more students taking the SAT because of block, and we know
that as more students take the test the scores often decrease.
From my review of over 70 articles, studies, and dissertations:
What conclusions can we draw from the available literature on longer class periods?
1. There is little or no dissension about the number of classes that students take each day- they take
2. There is little or no dissension about the number of courses that teachers teach each day- they
3. There is little or no dissension about the discipline rates. Many studies mention lower discipline
problems. No report mentions an increase in discipline problems.
4. On the trimester and the 4x4 block plan there is no dissension that students can take more courses
in their secondary school career. These courses include more core courses and more Advanced
and AP classes and post-secondary work.
5. There is some dissension on academic achievement when it comes to grades. Most studies point
to an increase in the number of A's and B's and the number of students on the honor roll. Most
studies also show an overall decrease in the number of F's. Some reports do indicate that certain
classes will show an increase in F's especially in the first year.
6. There is little or no dissension on the preferences of students involved in longer classes periods.
The majority of students overwhelmingly support blocking and state they would not like to return
to the traditional schedule.
7. There is little or no dissension on the preferences of teachers involved in longer class periods.
Seventy-five to 80 percent overwhelmingly support longer classes and state they would not like to
return to the traditional schedule.
8. There is increasing evidence of parental support. The available data suggests that the majority
support block schedules.
9. There is evidence to suggest that standardized test scores have gone up. There is also evidence to
suggest that standardized test scores have decreased. There is evidence that standardized test
scores have shown no significant change (Sommerfeld, 1996).
I hope this will be of help to you. Those of us who had the choice to go to block scheduling (it was not
forced on us) love it and would not go back.
Please note that the data and conclusions above are mine based upon my research and the analysis of
There are only three ways in which any human can make a decision. First, a decision can be made by
personal experience. I have been a teacher in both a block environment and a non-block environment. I
know the difference it made for my students and the difference it made for me. I therefor support block
scheduling. Second, a decision can be made by doing extensive research. Now, after over a year of this
research I can say that I am more convinced than ever that a block schedule, thatis carefully and
correctly implemented has inherent advantages for many students and teachers. Third, a decision can
be made after talking to people who have experienced the event. My conversations with thousands of
teachers and hundreds of students also lead me to conclude that block scheduling is a positive change in
our educational system. To support any other position based upon experience, research, and
observation would be unethical.
ERIC Digest 104 March 1996
By Karen Irmsher
Six classes a day, five days a week, every day the same schedule.
Telephones and radios were still novelties when high schools nationwide petrified the school day into
this rigid pattern. The refrigerator and television hadn't been invented, much less the copy machine,
computer, and video player.
We live in a very different world now, and we know immeasurably more about how students learn. Yet
most contemporary high school and middle school students are still locked into the same archaic
schedule that their great-grandparents experienced when they were teenagers.
This Digest looks at problems inherent in the traditional scheduling pattern. Then it examines the
benefits and challenges of block scheduling, and ends with a few tips for making the transition.
What's Wrong with the Traditional Six- or Seven-Period Day?
For starters, say critics, the pace is grueling. A typical student will be in nine locations pursuing nine
different activities in a six-and-a-half-hour school day. An average teacher must teach five classes,
dealing with 125-180 students and multiple preparations. This frantic, fragmented schedule is unlike any
experienced either before or after high school.
"It produces a hectic, impersonal, inefficient instructional environment," states Joseph Carroll (1994),
provides inadequate time for probing ideas in depth, and tends to discourage using a variety of learning
activities. Opportunities for individualization of instruction and meaningful interaction between students
and teachers are hard to come by.
No matter how complex or simple the school subject, the schedule assigns an impartial national average
of fifty-one minutes per class period, say Robert Canady and Michael Rettig (1995). And despite wide
variation in the time it takes individual students to succeed at learning any given task, the allocated time
is identical for all.
The 1994 report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning states, "Schools will have a
design flaw as long as their organization is based on the assumption that all students can learn on the
In addition, since most disciplinary problems occur during scheduled transitions, the more transitions,
the more problems. And a great deal of time is lost in simply starting and ending so many classes in a
"Traditional, inflexible scheduling is based on administrative and institutional needs," say Gary Watts
and Shari Castle (1993). Flexible scheduling patterns are a much better match for pedagogical practices
that meet the educational needs of students and the professional needs of teachers.
What Is Block Scheduling?
Gordon Cawelti (1994) defines it as follows: "At least part of the daily schedule is organized into larger
blocks of time (more than sixty minutes) to allow flexibility for a diversity of instructional activities."
The variations are endless, and may involve reconfiguring the lengths of terms as well as the daily
schedule. Some of the possibilities detailed by Canady and Rettig include:
Four ninety-minute blocks per day; school year divided into two semesters; former year-long
courses completed in one semester.
Alternate day block schedule: six or eight courses spread out over two days; teachers meet with
half of their students each day.
Two large blocks and three standard-sized blocks per day; year divided into sixty-day trimesters
with a different subject taught in the large blocks each trimester.
Some classes (such as band, typing, foreign language) taught daily, others in longer blocks on
Six courses, each meeting in three single periods, and one double period per week.
Seven courses. Teachers meet with students three days out of four--twice in single periods, once
in a double period.
And there are many more. Any of these can be modified, of course, to meet the specific needs of a
Scheduling changes are usually linked to decreased reliance on the standard lecture-discussion-seatwork
pattern, and an increase in individualization and creative teaching strategies. They are often part of a
major restructuring effort.
What Are the Advantages of Block Scheduling?
Larger blocks of time allow for a more flexible and productive classroom environment, along with more
opportunities for using varied and interactive teaching methods. Other benefits listed by Jeffrey Sturgis
(1995) include: more effective use of school time, decreased class size, increased number of course
offerings, reduced numbers of students with whom teachers have daily contact, and the ability of
teachers to use more process-oriented strategies.
In evaluations of schools using block scheduling, Carroll found more course credits completed, equal or
better mastery and retention of material, and an impressive reduction in suspension and dropout rates.
He posits improved relationships between students and teachers as a major factor. Every school in
Carroll's study benefited from the changes, though not all in the same ways or to the same degree.
Positive outcomes multiply when four "year-long" courses are taught in longer time blocks, each
compressed into one semester, say Canady and Rettig. This pattern allows students to enroll in a greater
number and variety of elective courses and offers more opportunities for acceleration. Students who fail
a course have an earlier opportunity to retake it, enabling them to regain the graduation pace of their
peers.Teachers have fewer students to keep records and grades for each semester, and schools require
fewer textbooks. What's more, overall satisfaction in the learning process is greater for both students
What Are Its Challenges?
All change is painful, say Gerald Strock and David Hottenstein (1994), and often controversial. The
process of making the transition is probably the biggest challenge: building support for altering such a
time-honored tradition, and finding/creating the planning time needed to make the change.
"Imposing a scheduling model on a school will not ensure success," states the Northwest Regional
Educational Laboratory (1990). The lab recommends a minimum of two year's planning time before
implementation, to make sure the new schedule meets the needs of all concerned.
Adequate staff development time is also essential, say Canady and Rettig. Teachers who have taught in
thirty-five to fifty-minute time blocks for years need help in gaining the necessary strategies and skills to
teach successfully in large blocks of time.
They observe that teachers who are most successful in block scheduling typically plan lessons in three
parts: explanation, application, and synthesis. Most teachers have much less experience with the latter
two phases than with the first. Teachers may also need training in cooperative learning, class building,
and team formation.
What Advice Do Experts Have for Making the Change?
Before instituting major schedule changes, it's desirable to have a common vision, a good plan, and
strong support of all stakeholders, says Carroll. Ideally, the superintendent, school board, principals,
teachers, students, and parents should all be provided with opportunities to learn about the proposed
innovations, and have plenty of chances to discuss the ramifications.
Canady and Rettig suggest the following:
A general presentation regarding the pros and cons of various models of block scheduling
Visits by teachers, students, parents, and school board members to schools having block
Panel presentations by teachers from schools operating block schedules
Faculty discussion meetings, leading to a vote or consensus
Parent and community meetings
Assemblies for students conducted by students from other schools or by their peers who have
visited other schools
Distribution of relevant research data and implementation procedures
School board presentations and approval
Staff development focused on the appropriate design of curriculum and use of extended blocks
of time for instruction
Attempting smaller changes minimizes the risks, they note, but creates less striking results and is also
less likely to generate enthusiasm and commitment.
To be successful, the change must address a need, fit the teachers' situation, be focused, and include
Canady, Robert Lynn, and Michael D. Rettig. Block Scheduling: A Catalyst for Change in High Schools.
Princeton, New Jersey: Eye on Education, 1995. 266 pages.
Carroll, Joseph. M. "Organizing Time to Support Learning." The School Administrator 51, 3 (March 1994):
26-28, 30-33. EJ481 309.
Cawelti, Gordon. High School Restructuring: A National Study. Arlington, Virginia: Educational Research
Service, 1994. 75 pages.ED366 070.
National Education Commission on Time and Learning. Prisoners of Time: Research. What We Know and
What We Need To Know. Report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. September 1994. 60 pages.ED378 685.
Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, Rural Education Program. Literature Search on the
Question: What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Scheduling Options for Small
Secondary Schools (High Schools and Middle Schools)? Portland, Oregon: Author. January 1990. 24
Strock, Gerald E., and David S. Hottenstein. "The First-Year Experience: A High School Restructures
Through Copernican Plan." The School Administrator 51, 3 (March 1994): 30-31. EJ481 309.
Sturgis, Jeffrey D. "Flexibility Enhances Student Achievement." NASSP AP Special: The Newsletter for
Assistant Principals 10, 4 (Summer 1995): 1-2.
Watts, Gary D., and Shari Castle."The Time Dilemma in School Restructuring." Phi Delta Kappan 75, 4
(December 1993): 306-10. EJ474 291.
This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement,
U.S. Department of Education, under contract No. OERI RR93002006. The ideas and opinions expressed
in this Digest do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of IES, ED, or the Clearinghouse. This
Digest is in the public domain and may be freely reproduced.
The Principals' Partnership
Sponsored by Union Pacific Foundation
High School Schedules
Question: How do common High School schedules compare?
Summary of Findings: Findings are mixed on the effectiveness of various scheduling models. These
models include a traditional 7 or 8 period day, a block schedule with four classes meeting one day and
another four meeting the next (A/B Block), a block schedule of four classes that meet every day for a
term(4x4 Block), and several hybrid models. Some findings conclude most schools are happy with their
transitionto longer class periods, others that achievement and student attitude are improved, and
others that the blockschedule proved disastrous over traditional scheduling. (Anecdotally, my son, who
is bright, but strugglesacademically, performs much better in a 4x4 block where he only has to
concentrate on four classes insteadof eight.)
These mixed findings may say less about the effectiveness of block scheduling than they do about what
questions the researchersasked and how the changes in scheduling were implemented. There are
numerous reports of teachers simply lecturing for 80minutes or still presenting for 40 and giving the
remaining time to students to do homework, resulting in half the course materialbeing covered
compared to traditional scheduling. It is not surprising in such cases that achievement can be reduced
and studentand teacher attitudes decline. As Kathleen Cushman of the Essential Schools Project states,
“Moving to longer schedule blockscan help schools focus more on depth in the curriculum and active
student engagement. But unless teachers get substantial time todevelop and reflect on new practices-
and unless the needs of students drive the use of time - a long-block schedule won'taccomplish much.”
Much has been written on lessons learned from Block Scheduling, mistakes schools have made, and
stepsschools might take to avoid those mistakes. The Center for Innovative School Scheduling and the
Center forApplied Research and Educational Improvement are sources for that information.
Using Time Well: Schedules in Essential Schools
Horace. Volume 12, #2. Nov. 1995.
Moving to longer schedule blocks can help schools focus more on depth in the curriculum and active
student engagement. But unless teachers get substantial time to develop and reflect on new practices-
and unless the needs of students drive the use of time-a long-block schedule won't accomplish much.
Policy Briefing: Block Scheduling in Secondary Schools
This paper describes different models of block scheduling, offers benefits and disadvantages of the
models, and presents suggestions for schools considering block scheduling.
The Principals' Partnership
Sponsored by Union Pacific Foundation
Center for Innovative School Scheduling
Welcome to the Center for Innovative School Scheduling (CISS) at the University of Virginia's Curry
School of Education. The primary purpose of this Center is to provide interested individuals with the
latest and best information on innovative practices in school scheduling. In addition, it provides users
with some of the latest research on the subject and links them to practitioners and researchers who are
leading the way in innovative scheduling.
Block Scheduling: What We've Learned
The Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI)
Primer and FAQhttp://education.umn.edu/CAREI/Blockscheduling/QandA/default.html
Block Scheduling: An Introduction
By Michael Rettig and Judith Cannizzaro
Block Scheduling’s Missteps, Successes and Variables
Michael D. Rettig and Robert Lynn Canady
The School Administrator Web Edition; October 2003
A study finds steady progress in the use of alternatives to the traditional schedule. While a few schools
have returned to single periods, the vast majority of schools that adopted alternative scheduling models
continue to be satisfied with their decisions. We have documented one state’s history of adoption,
implementation and minimal reversion from block scheduling; highlighted mistakes some schools have
made; reviewed how alternative schedules have been used as part of schools’ efforts to improve school
environment and achievement; and looked at three variables related to school scheduling that affect
Block Scheduling (or “Alternative” or “Flexible”)
The Principals' Partnership
Sponsored by Union Pacific Foundation
Block Scheduling in the High School Setting
A Synthesis of Evidence-Based Research
Chance W. Lewis, Marc A. Winokur, R. Brian Cobb, Gail S. Gliner, & Joel Schmidt
The purpose of this study was to produce a systematic review and synthesis of evidence-based research
on the effect of block scheduling on student achievement in United States high schools. This report
provides a brief introduction to block scheduling, chronicles the search strategies used to locate the
final literature set, and describes the processes employed to code the studies on outcome, intervention,
and methodological criteria using the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) framework. In addition,
findings, conclusions, and recommendations are discussed for the studies that merited inclusion into
the block scheduling evidence base.
Block and traditional schedules: Effects on students with and without disabilities in high school
byBottge, Brian J, Gugerty, John J, Serlin, Ron, Moon, Kyoung-Suk
National Association of Secondary School Principals. NASSP Bulletin, Sep 2003
The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of traditional and block schedules on the
academic achievement of high school students with and without disabilities. Achievement data were
collected from the cumulative records and Individual Education Plans of 160 students with disabilities
and the cumulative records of 460 students without disabilities. Achievement was measured by
students' GPA; state-mandated tests in reading, language, math, science, and social studies; and college
entrance ACT. Results showed no difference on all comparisons between students with disabilities
attending block-scheduled high schools and students with disabilities attending traditional-scheduled
high schools. Similar results were found for students without disabilities. Teachers on both schedules
reported high levels of satisfaction and comparable amounts of time on instructional activities.
Research & Resources - Resources by Subject
Annotated bibliography by subject area.
General Research: Studies showing advantages with block scheduling
Block Scheduling Issues
Concerns Regarding Block Scheduling
An AskERIC Response
(Note: ERIC documents can be found by going to http://www.eric.ed.gov/ and entering the ERIC ID#)
Secondary School Scheduling Models: How Do Types of Models Compare to the ACT Scores?
Hackmann, Donald G.; Hecht, Janet E.; Harmston, Matt T.; Pliska, Ann-Maureen; Ziomek, Robert
This study examined the relationship between school scheduling format and average compositescores
on the ACT Assessment after controlling for lifestyle factors, gender, school enrollment levels,number of
examinees, and years under the scheduling model. The participants were 38,089 highschools seniors in
568 public high schools in Iowa and Illinois who completed the ACT Assessmentin 1999. The focus was
on data at the school level, and individual schools were represented by meanACT composite scores for
the school. The three scheduling models considered were: (1) traditionaleight period (351 schools); (2)
eight block alternating day (161 schools); and (3) 4x4 semester (56schools). In general, findings show
that the scheduling type used at a school does not predict the ACTcomposite scores when examined at
the school level. Some of the limitations of the study arediscussed.
ERIC #: ED452230
The Effects of Block Scheduling.
Rettig, Michael D.; Canady, Robert Lynn;
School Administrator, v56 n3 p14-16,18-20 Mar 1999
Research reveals important generalizations about block scheduling. A/B schedules are easier to
implement than 4/4 schedules, which must be adapted to allow some year-long courses. Merely
changing the school bell schedule will not guarantee better student performance. However, block
scheduling typically improves climate, attendance, and achievement.
ERIC #: EJ585529
The Block Scheduling Handbook.
Queen, J. Allen;
Block scheduling encourages increased comprehensive immersion into subject matter, improved
teacher-student relationships, and decreased disciplinary problems. While block scheduling may
offermany advantages, moving to a block schedule from conventional scheduling can be a
majoradjustment for both students and teachers. This guide is intended to ease the problems of change
bycombining a theoretical background with specific practical and proven tips and tools forimplementing
a block schedule. It discusses block scheduling in elementary, middle, and highschools, and includes an
in-depth case study of an exemplary elementary-school curriculum. Itexplains in detail the three block
models-the 4x4 block schedule, the A/B block schedule, and themodified block-and how to select the
best model. It offers guidance on curriculum alignment, pacing,and assessment models. It outlines
effective instructional strategies for block scheduling, includingclassroom management and student-
centered strategies. And it provides sample models, lessons,activities, forms, evaluations, and surveys
for easy implementation.
ERIC #: ED469437
Block Scheduling: Students' Perceptions of Readiness for College Math, Science, and Foreign
Salvaterra, Mary; Lare, Douglas; Gnall, John; Adams, Don;
American Secondary Education, v27 n4 p13-21 Sum 1999
To garner student perceptions, a questionnaire listing questions for math, science, and foreignlanguage
was sent to the 1997, 1996, and 1995 graduates of two Pennsylvania high schools that hadimplemented
the 4X4 semester-block-scheduling model. Overall, students felt their block-scheduledhigh school
prepared them adequately for college
ERIC #: EJ589419
Block Scheduling: Restructuring the School Day. Hot Topics Series.
Flinders, David J., Ed.;
The advantages and disadvantages of block scheduling are considered in 24 articles.
ERIC #: ED461914
Implementing the 4X4 Block Schedule: Is It Worth It?
Rural Educator, v20 n3 p40-45 Spr 1999
The 4X4 block schedule was implemented in a rural high school in southern Arizona in 1997.
Teacher and student surveys show that after the change, teachers were more satisfied with theteaching
and learning environment, their relationship with students, and systemic supports, andstudents were
more satisfied with school. Benefits, problems, and unexpected results of blockscheduling arediscussed.
ERIC #: EJ586577
The Feasibility of 4X4 Block Scheduling in Secondary Schools: A Review of the Literature.
Stanley, Anthony; Gifford, Lorna J.;
This paper reviews the literature on 4x4 block scheduling. Studies reveal that the advantages of such
scheduling are simplicity, potential for greater student achievement, and reduced disciplinaryreferrals.
Discipline is enhanced through this type of schedule because it decreases the number oftimes that
students are moving in the halls between disciplined environments. The schedule promotesstudent
achievement by allowing students to attend additional classes during their 4-year high schooltenure, by
encouraging more engaging learning activities, and by allowing students to concentratenarrowly on the
four subjects taken each semester. This concentration may allow for better masteryof material, but it
does not allow for the breadth of coverage found in traditional schedules.Consequently, the 4x4 block
schedule should not be implemented in districts where test scores andstrict adherence to state
curriculum guides are considered sacred. Furthermore, student motivationplays a large part in the
success or failure of the 4x4 block schedule; motivated students excel in suchan environment, whereas
poorly motivated students sometimes fall further behind than in traditionalschedule environments. It is
emphasized that careful planning in implementing 4x4 scheduling isessential to its success.
ERIC #: ED429333
Date: 8/8/2005 Submitted By: Mike Muir, Maine Center for Meaningful Engaged Learning
Research Spotlight on Block Scheduling
NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education
Schools throughout the United States are adopting block or modular scheduling in dramatically
increasing numbers. In contrast with the traditional daily six-, seven-, or eight-period schedule, a block
schedule consists of three or four longer periods of daily instruction.
The three most common forms of block scheduling are:
1. alternate day schedule - where students and teachers meet every other day for extended time
periods rather than meeting every day for shorter periods
2. "4x4" semester plan - where students meet for 4 90-minute blocks every day over 4 quarters
3. trimester plan - where students take two or three courses every 60 days to earn six to nine
credits per year.
Block Scheduling: A Solution or a Problem? (Education World)
Pros and Cons of Modified Schedules
Teachers see fewer students during the day, giving them more time for individualized instruction.
With the increased span of teaching time, longer cooperative learning activities can be completed in one
Students have more time for reflection and less information to process over the course of a school day.
Teachers have extended time for planning.
Teachers see students only three to four days a week which fosters a lack of continuity from day to day.
If a student misses a day under the modular schedule, that student is actually missing two, or sometimes
even more days.
In a 4x4, all of the information normally taught in a semester course has to be covered in one quarter.
It is difficult to cover the necessary material for Advanced Placement courses in the time allotted.
Modular [Block] Schedules (About.com)
Current Research on Block Scheduling
Prisoners of Time – Most notable study regarding time and learning by Milton Goldberg when he was
with the Department of Education. It is the best-researched piece for arguing for longer school days, a
longer school year, and more time dedicated to learning. (National Education Commission on Time and
Learning, April 1994)
Block Scheduling Web Site - The Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) is a
collaborative organization that brings the resources of the College of Education and Human
Development and the University of Minnesota to bear on educational issues in Minnesota and across
the nation. (University of Minnesota)
Block Scheduling Revisited- J. Allen Queen (PDK, 2000) provides guidelines for improving scheduling
formats so that they might offer better potential for student success.
Block Scheduling (ERIC Digest, No. 104) - Karen Irmsher (1996) explores the question What's wrong with
the traditional six- or seven-period day?