Block Scheduling the High School: The Effects on Achievement, Behavior, And Student-Teacher Relationships

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  • Bulletin online version of this article can be found at:

    DOI: 10.1177/019263659708158907

    1997 81: 45NASSP BulletinDale V. Eineder and Harold L. Bishop

    Behavior, And Student-Teacher RelationshipsBlock Scheduling the High School: The Effects on Achievement,

    Published by:

    On behalf of:

    National Association of Secondary School Principals

    can be found at:NASSP BulletinAdditional services and information for Alerts:

    What is This?

    - May 1, 1997Version of Record >>

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    School Environment

    Block Scheduling the High School:The Effects on Achievement, Behavior,And Student-Teacher RelationshipsBy Dale V. Eineder and Harold L. Bishop

    Dale V. Eineder is assistant professor in the department of leadership and educational studies,Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C., and Harold L. Bishop is professor of educational lead-ership at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; readers may continue the dialogue on the InternetEineder at and with Bishop at

    As high schools across the nation seek to improve delivery of instruc-

    tion, increasing numbers are turning to block scheduling. Many ques-tions face school communities that are trying to decide whether or not

    to move to block scheduling. This article seeks to answer questionsabout block scheduling by discussing current knowledge and by report-

    ing the results of a study conducted at a small rural high school.

    he faculty at Philo High School in Southeastern Ohio had beenM working hard to maximize instruction, but many students were

    unmotivated, and their performance showed it. With the supportof the school board and the superintendent of Franklin Local School

    District, the faculty and administration began searching for solutions.

    Eventually, the group began to investigate the concept of block schedul-

    ing. They read extensively, visited schools, and held ongoing discussionsabout block scheduling. Finally, after nearly a year of deliberation, a con-sensus was reached: Philo would implement a 4 x 4 block schedule the fol-

    lowing year.The faculty and administrators were taking a risk. They had more

    questions about the effectiveness of block scheduling than answers.Would student achievement improve? How would block schedulingaffect student behavior? What effect would longer class periods have onstudent-teacher relationships? Would students and teachers like the newschedule? The faculty knew the answers could only be found after


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    Academic AchievementEducators who are considering block scheduling need to understand itseffects on academic achievement. A growing body of studies have reportedimproved achievement as indicated by honor roll, grade point average, andnumbers of As and Fs earned (Hottenstein and Malatesta, 1993; Hart, 1994;Buckman, King, and Ryan, 1995; Edwards, 1995; Schoenstein, 1997).

    Another study by Whitla et al. (1992) exam-ined the effects of block scheduling on standardizedachievement tests. This study found no statistical dif-ference in scores in a school-within-a-school pilotstudy, even though the block scheduled studentswere academically less gifted than the control group.

    Only a few studies have examined the effectof block scheduling on specific subjects: Reid (1995)reported improvements in writing ability in block scheduled English class-es, and Lockwoods 1995 study of block scheduling on mathematics foundno significant differences in achievement in algebra and geometry as mea-sured by high school subject tests and standardized algebra or geometrytests under any of the following comparisons: ability, gender, or race.

    Canadian high schools began semesterizing their schedules in the1970s. After 20 years of implementation, two Canadian studies of semester-ized scheduling have reported negative results in achievement. Raphael etal. (1986) found decreased achievement in mathematics, and Batesons(1990) study found reduced achievement in science as measured on a mul-

    tiple-choice test. These studies have been criticized, however, because theydid not allow for the fact that students on the semester schedule were test-

    ed months after completing the class. The difference in time betweencourse completion and testing date would give an unfair advantage to year-long students (Lockwood, 1995). Other Canadian studies have not support-ed the negative achievement results cited by Bateson and Raphael et al.(Moodie, 1971; Davis et al., 1977; Traverso, 1991).

    Academic Achievement at Philo High School

    At Philo High School some of the effects of block scheduling becameapparent almost immediately. Block scheduling had a tremendous impact onthe academic success of ninth grade students who were making the transitionfrom the middle level to high school. During the first two years of the newschedule at Philo, the average number of ninth graders making the honor rolldoubled for the first grading period. Comparisons of the year-long totals forhonor roll attainment showed that the number of ninth graders achievinghonor roll status increased by 92 percent under the block schedule.

    Educators who are con-

    sidering block schedul-

    ing need to understand

    its effects on academic


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    It should be understood that these are comparisons of different stu-dents who may have different levels of ability, who may have received dif-ferent instruction prior to their high school experience, or who may haveencountered other factors that could affect achievement. The student pop-ulation of the Franklin Local School District is not transient, however, andteachers and administrators were unable to identify differences that couldaccount for the overwhelming increase in achievement. Indeed, the facultyand administration believed that the vast increase in the number of first-yearstudents making the honor roll under block scheduling was due to factors

    surrounding the scheduling innovation.In May 1996, the academic performance of eleventh and twelfth

    grade students who attended the high school under both traditional andblock schedules was analyzed. These students also showed remarkable

    gains. After one year of block scheduling, these students achieved a 24 per-cent increase in the number of As and a 15 percent decrease in the num-

    ber of Fs. Application of statistical measures found significant improvementin the accumulative grade point average (Correlated t-test, p < .001) and inthe frequency of honor roll attainment (Chi Square, p < .001).

    The achievement trends noted during the first year of the schedul-

    ing innovation at Philo High School were impressive. Improvement in aca-demic performance was nearly universal.

    Instructional MethodologyAdvocates of block scheduling claim that extending the instructional peri-od provides more in-class time for student activities and facilitates a wider

    variety of instructional methods. Reports have stated that block scheduledteachers use more instructional strategies, individualize instruction more

    often, are more creative, and use cooperative learning more often than tra-

    ditionally scheduled teachers (Whitla et al., 1992; Hottenstein and Malatesta,1993; ONeil, 1995). Canadian studies by Davis et al. (1977), Ross (1977),Brophy (1978), Raphael et al. (1986), and Bateson (1990) have generallyagreed with the U.S. studies but have not cited the use of cooperative learn-

    ing per se.

    Instructional Methodology at Philo High SchoolAt Philo High School, 97 percent of teachers and 77 percent of stu-

    dents stated that a wider variety of projects were completed in class underthe supervision of a teacher. Additionally, 91 percent of teachers and 77percent of students reported more extensive use of cooperative learningunder block scheduling.

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    Student-Teacher RelationshipsGiven the findings of the National Education Commission on Time andLearning (1994) the need for positive relationships between students andadults cannot be overstated. The Commission reported:~ That 50 percent of U.S. children spend some portion of their childhood

    in a single-parent home~ That 20.8 million working mothers have school-aged children~ That family time has declined 40 percent since World War II~ That 40 percent of high school students care for themselves after school~ And [no surprise] that students are bringing many more problems to


    Block scheduling has two advantages that have a positive impact on. relationships between students and teachers and

    among students themselves:

    1 Most types of block scheduling give teachers signifi-cantly smaller student loads and students significant-

    ly fewer teachers to satisfy. Because teachers spendmore time with fewer students and vice versa, advocates

    claim that student-teacher relationships improve.

    block scheduling increases opportunities for stu-dents to complete teacher-supervised group activi-ties and projects in class. The importance of this factorhas been highlighted by Johnson and Johnson (1989)and Slavin, Karweit, and Madden (1989) who found

    cooperative learning to be more effective in promoting achievement and pos-itive interpersonal relationships than competitive and individualistic learning.

    Reports from block scheduled high schools have stated that the

    scheduling innovation had a positive impact on the instructional climate byimproving student-teacher and student-student relationships (Moodie, 1971;Gleadow, 1975; Davis et al., 1977; Brophy, 1978; Munroe, 1989; Whitla et

    al., 1992; Carroll, 1994; Canady and Rettig, 1995; Reid, 1995).

    Student-Teacher Relationships at Philo High School

    The results of a survey administered to teachers and students at

    Philo High School overwhelmingly supported the effects of block schedul-ing on student-teacher relationships. The surveys, administered in the sec-ond year of block scheduling, found that 95 percent of teachers and 80 per-cent of students felt that student-teacher relationships had improved.Perhaps as important, the number of students involved in fights wasreduced by 40 percent.

    Most types of block

    scheduling give

    teachers significant

    smaller student load!

    and students signifi-

    cantly fewer teachers

    to satisfy.

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    Student BehaviorSymptoms of the many challenges facing this generation of youngsters canbe observed in the high dropout rates, disruptive behavior, and absen-teeism of many school-aged young people. Canady and Rettig (1995) havestated that traditional schedules create conditions that increase disruptivebehavior. A large percentage of negative behavioroccurs during class changes when the entire school

    population, including faculty members, are in a stateof transition.

    Adding to the problem, short instructional peri-ods do not allow adequate time for teachers to effec-

    tively employ preventive discipline techniques. If a

    disruptive student does not respond to initial correc-tive measures, the teacher may feel pressed by timeconstraints to quickly remove the student from class.

    In contrast, block scheduling reduces opportu-nity for disruptive behavior by reducing the number of transitions in a day;longer class periods allow teachers sufficient time to employ preventive dis-

    ciplinary measures in class.

    Student Behavior at Philo High School

    Analysis of student behavior during the first year of block schedul-

    ing at Philo High School supported Canady and Rettigs premise. Tabulationof data found widespread improvement in student behavior. The Chi

    Square test identified statistically significant reductions in the frequency of:~ Discipline referrals (p < .05)~ Tardy referrals (p < .001)~ In-school suspensions (p < .001)~ Out-of-school suspensions (p < .001).

    Dropouts decreased from 4.6 percent to 4 percent, average dailyattendance increased from 93.7 percent to 94.7 percent, and the number of

    students involved in fights was reduced by 40 percent.The comprehensive improvement in student behavior is likely a

    result of three factors:

    a. Extended class periods gave teachers more time to employ provenbehavior modification strategies.b. The 4 x 4 block schedule has fewer class changes than a traditional

    seven-period day, giving students less opportunity to be tardy or to engagein disruptive behavior during less supervised transitions.c. Fewer transitions and less time in hallways meant more time in class-

    ...short instructional l

    periods do not allow

    adequate time for

    teachers to effective-

    ly employ preventive

    discipline techniques.

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    rooms where interpersonal communication among students and betweenteachers and students could take place in a structured environment.

    More than 80 percent of students and 95 percent of teachers stated

    that they knew each other better under the block schedule. The importanceof this almost universal improvement in student-teacher relationships can-not be overstated. The extended class period made

    possible by block scheduling not only gives teachersmore time to employ proven behavior modification

    strategies, but also may unlock new clues as to the

    cause and remediation of antisocial behavior throughbetter understanding of individual students.

    The number of students involved in fights atPhilo High School decreased by 40 percent underblock scheduling. It is likely that reduced opportuni-ty was a key factor in this immediate reduction. It is

    hoped that block scheduled students will alsoimprove interpersonal communication skills throughcontinued interaction with their peers in structured

    classroom activities. The chance for students to participate in such ac...


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