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New 4X4 Block Explained

DCHS Parents and Students,

 

Starting in January of last school year, the DCHS leadership team began looking at different options for the master schedule.  We looked at a variety of options including a 4x4 (traditional) block, last year's A/B modified block, and at least a half dozen other possibilities from a 7 period day to hybrid schedules that have semester blocks (90 min) and year-long “skinnies”  (45-50 min). Our goal was to create a schedule that would make the most of our resources, offer as much flexibility as possible for our students, and reduce the course/student load for our teachers. After collecting input from parents, teachers, and students, we decided that a move to the traditional block schedule would be in the best interest of our stakeholders.

I want to preface our recommendation by saying that nobody involved in the process, myself included, believes that this is a “magic” schedule that will meet every need or solve every issue.  Instead, we have looked at the potential advantages and disadvantages of moving to a traditional block and feel the positives outweigh the negatives. Below, you will find our rationale for making the move as well as a couple of potential issues we have tried to address.

 

Advantages for Students:

 

  • They can still take 8 classes in a year.  This allows more elective options and for more completed CTAE pathways.
  • Students can now make up a failed class in the same year.  With the A/B block, students often end up in two math or english classes at the same time if they fail because courses ran all year.
  • Fewer class changes (compared to a 7 period day) means that there is more time for instruction.  This will allow us to offer in-day clubs like last year and extended learning time for remediation and acceleration.
  • Students have fewer tests, quizzes, and homework assignments to manage since they only have 4 courses per semester.
  • This will allow our advanced students to take two maths or sciences in the same year.  This will open up Advanced Placement course options like AP Calculus and AP Biology or Dual Enrollment options offered through GNTC.
  • There is a more time for students and teachers to get to know one another.
  • Students should benefit from a less fragmented curriculum. Our hope is that, because classes will meet daily, there will be greater momentum and less time spent reviewing.
  • No more confusion about whether it is a “gold” or “maroon” day.
  • Weather events have less of an impact with a traditional block because students can pick up where they left off.  We have had times when a student misses a Friday due to weather and does not have a class until the following Tuesday because of the way the days alternate on the A/B block.  Obviously, this is not ideal.
  • Our transfer students that come from traditional block schedules suffer when trying to fit into an A/B block.  The majority of our transfers come from schools on a traditional block schedule.

 

 

Advantages for Teachers:

 

  • Teachers will have fewer preparations.  On a traditional block, a teacher could have four different courses in a year, but only have to prepare for two classes each semester.  On the A/B block they would have to prepare for all four courses all year long.
  • Teachers will have fewer students in a semester instead of managing 150-175 students all year under the A/B block, they would have 75-90 per semester with the traditional block.  This allows teachers to focus on student needs and differentiate accordingly. Imagine grading 75 essays instead of 150!
  • Compared to a 6 or 7 period day, the number of class changes is reduced on a block schedule.  Most discipline infractions happen during transitions.
  • Less time is devoted to administrative duties like taking attendance when compared to a 6/7 period day.
  • Longer blocks allow for extended activities such as labs, seminars, and project based learning.  Having blocks that meet daily instead of every other day will help with science labs. Teachers report that some multi-day labs require students to revisit their experiment the next day which is not possible with the current A/B block.
  • Teachers will be better able to monitor attendance because they see their students daily.  

 

 

Disadvantages for Students:

 

  • With an A/B block schedule, students can take a class like chorus all year long and only use one of their eight classes.  With a traditional block, they would have to use two of their eight classes if they wanted to participate year-long.  This could also impact classes like sports training that students might want to take all year.  To address this, we are going to work with juniors and seniors and allow them to take classes like chorus or sports training all year-long by alternating A/B like they did in the 2017-18 school year.  We will work with CTAE, PE, and/or Work Based Learning so they can alternate year-long instead of having to choose one or the other.  This will only be available to students who have a proven track record of academic performance and excellent behavior.
  • AP testing is only done in the spring.  If a student takes an AP course in the fall, they wouldn’t be tested until the end of the year. To lessen the impact, we are going to move all of our AP offerings to the spring semester so they will be finishing the class just before the test.  Additionally, part of our extended learning time will be dedicated to an AP prep course that will help students develop their analytical reading and writing skills. End of Course tests will not have the same issues as they will be tested at the end of each semester.

 

 

Hopefully it is apparent that the leadership team has carefully considered the options and has selected a schedule that best fits our stakeholders' needs. While we have tried to anticipate potential issues, we know that there will be some hiccups along the way.  My promise to students and parents is that we do our absolute best to find solutions to any scheduling issues that arise. If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know and we will get back to you as soon as possible.  As always, thank you all for your support.  We couldn't do it without you.

 

Sincerely,

James Fahrney, Jr.

jamesfahrney@dadecs.org