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Changing the School Day, Research Paper Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1278

Research Paper

Reacting to a society that is becoming more intensely concerned with obtaining greater productivity, many school districts across the nation are changing their high school class schedules from a traditional seven period class day to a four period class day, known as block scheduling.  Believing that fewer classes and increased class time lead to greater student learning, many school districts are adopting the block schedule without proper consideration. Block scheduling has not, as yet, been thoroughly investigated by educational researchers.  The effects of block classes on both students and teachers, long-term and short-term, need full investigation before block scheduling can be fully endorsed by the education community.  Particularly, the effects of traditional scheduling and block scheduling on the achievement of students should be one of the first areas in which researchers concentrate.  The purpose of this paper is to determine if there is a significant difference in academic performance between traditional and block scheduled secondary students.

A study conducted by Deuel (1999) in Broward County Public Schools, using analysis of student records, suggested that block-scheduled students outscore traditionally scheduled students in all subjects.  Additionally, qualitative data was collected from high school students, counselors, teachers, and principals regarding their perceptions of block scheduling.

In a study by Gruber and Onwuegbuzie (2001), the authors note the increased call for block scheduling and the lack of research on the topic.  Gruber and Onwuegbuzie found that Georgia high school students on the two different schedules do not differ significantly on grade point average, but traditional students score higher on Language Arts and Mathematics on Georgia High School Graduation Tests.

A descriptive study of high school teachers in South Florida by Hamdy and Urich (1998) shows that, overall, teachers preferred the block schedule because it offered them more planning time and less student contact.  However, teachers complained that class size increased, English and mathematics teachers felt content was disrupted by off semesters (see Gruber above), and teachers found that lower level students fell behind more quickly.

While the researcher, Khazzaka (1998), conducted much qualitative research on attitudes toward block scheduling and analysis of attendance and disciplinary infractions, the most important piece of his research was a quantitative analysis of the GPA of secondary school students before and after switching to a block schedule.  On this point, Khazzaka found that GPA’s rose at all grade levels.

In a study by Lawrence and McPherson (2000), the authors focused on secondary students’ achievement in multiple subject areas, though only on North Carolina End of Course tests.  Additionally, the researchers tested four hypotheses.  Their findings were that students on traditional schedules outperformed block students in all of these subjects on this test.

Stokes and Wilson (2000) conducted a descriptive study of teacher attitudes toward block scheduling.  After one, two, three, and four years of block scheduling, the majority of teachers supported the new schedule. However, reasons for this support may be selfish and not related to student achievement.  The teachers appear to support block scheduling because they have fewer students and more planning time.

To collect primary data, I designed a simple four-question survey. Each question on the survey could be answered with a choice from two options. The goal of the survey was to elicit basic data concerning the performance of a student in high school with later performance in life. To gather data, I positioned myself in a public place, on a sidewalk at the corner of two streets. I questioned 23 people and recorded the results.  My respondents were varied in age based on observation. Also, 15 females and 8 males responded to the survey.  Gender and high school schedule were the only groupings employed in this survey.  Other observational data were noted but not recorded.

Regarding question one, 6 females and 2 males attended a block-scheduled school. The remaining 9 females and 6 males attended a traditionally-scheduled school. In question two, 5 females and 2 males in block-scheduled schools had GPAs above 3.0.  7 females and 6 males attending a traditionally-scheduled school graduated with a GPA over 3.0. For question three, 3 females and 1 male attending a block-scheduled school felt prepared for work or college. In contrast, 6 females and 4 males from a traditionally-scheduled school felt prepared for work or college. Regarding question four, 1 female and 0 males attending a block-scheduled school felt that the schedule was the reason for their success.  In comparison, 1 female and 1 male who attended a traditionally-scheduled school felt that the schedule affected their success.

The data from the survey point to some interesting trends. Based on this small sample, the type of schedule that a school employs does not appear to affect the GPA of the students.  Also, there does not appear to be an effect of schedule based on gender.  The largest difference from the survey is that former students of schools following a block schedule felt significantly less prepared for college and work.  Neither group of former students identified school schedule as a factor of their success or failure.

The data support the research of Dueul (1999) and Khazzaka (1998) who found that students on a block schedule have higher GPAs and greater academic success.  The data support the conclusion that class scheduling affects the GPA of a student.  Interestingly, while the type of schedule affects the GPA of the student, the perception by the student is opposite that result.  Students in traditionally-scheduled schools perceive that their education prepared them better for college and work than block-scheduled students.  One would expect the opposite to be true based on GPA.  More research into this disparity and result is warranted.

Overall, the data from the survey provided an answer to my research question.  Students who attend schools utilizing the block schedule outperform their peers attending schools utilizing the traditional schedule.  My survey is definitely flawed because I only captured a very small sample.  Additionally, this sample was not very varied in gender or any other markers.  If I were to conduct the survey again, I would make it publically available on the internet for a set period of time.  After receiving an acceptable number of replies, I would calculate the data.  Also, I would use a statistical program such as SPSS to determine the exact correlation between the data and the type of school scheduling.  These means would provide a larger sample with a more diverse response.  If time allowed, I would also incorporate open-ended questions.  However, the process of encoding the answers to open-ended questions in order to increase their usefulness and reliability would likely prove too difficult in regards to my research question.

References

Deuel, L. S. (1999).  Block scheduling in large, urban high schools:  effects on academic achievement, student behavior, and staff perceptions.  The High School Journal, 83(1), 14-26.

Gruber, C. D. , & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2001).  Effects of block scheduling on academic achievement among high school students.  The High School Journal, 84(4), 32-42.

Hamdy, M., & Urich, T. (1998).  Perceptions of teachers in south Florida toward block scheduling.  National Association of Secondary School Principals.  NASSP Bulletin, 82(596), 79-82.

Khazzaka, J. (1998).  Comparing the merits of a seven-period school day to those of a four-period school day.  The High School Journal, 81(2), 87-98.

Lawrence, W. W., & McPherson, D. D. (2000).  A comparative study of block scheduling and traditional scheduling on academic achievement.  Journal of Instructional Psychology, 27(3), 178-183.

Stokes, L. C., & Wilson, J. W. (2000).  A longitudinal study of teachers’ perceptions of the effectiveness of block versus traditional scheduling.  NASSP Bulletin, 84(619), 90-99.

Questionaire

Did you attend a high school that employed a block or traditional schedule?

Was your GPA above 3.0 or below?

Did you feel prepared for college or work after high school?

Do you believe that the scheduling of your class contributed to your success or failure?

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