Block Scheduling (or “Alternative” or “Flexible”)

Synopsis prepared by Lee Risley
Introduction, an example, and contributors


A. Rationale for the Block Scheduling System
B. Variations of “Block” systems
C. Methods Useful for Block Instruction
D. Thoughts, Opinions, Concerns
E. Positive Personal Experiences
F. Negative Personal Experiences
G. Positive & Negative Observations
H. Block as Concerns FL Specifically
I. Further Reference Sources

Introduction, an example, and contributors

For most of the 20th century the Carnegie Unit has governed academic credit in American high schools. Each state stipulated the minimum number of instruction minutes necessary for a course to award credit. Now many in education are thinking of the old system as a “lock step” that has held back progress. We are looking for alternatives, and here in the last decade of the century, some form of Block Scheduling is the newest thinking (or newest fad, some will say).

With the following brief query from Kathy Kitts looking for information about this new critter called Block and Aileen Peek’s sudden and unanticipated plunge into a Block instructional sequence -both in July 1994- begins FLTeach’s examination of the Block Schedule also known as “alternative” scheduling.

94/07  Subject: FL Curriculum and the Block Schedule

My high school is heading towards the block schedule. (I teach at both
high school and university levels.) Any specific advice or help you may
have on curriculum and methods is greatly appreciated!

Kathy Kitts



I have to address this issue of block scheduling by saying that I know
nothing about it. I only found out about its existence in public schools
when I found myself starting this year teaching French every other day
to students in Jr. high. I am used to the traditional schedule of 50
min. periods, 5 periods a day everyday. I am curious to see how I will
do teaching students for 90 min. at a time every other day. I have to
say truthfully that I am a little nervous about it, not that I will not
be sufficiently prepared but because it is something totally brand new
for me. Any other information or opinions are welcome.

Aileen Peek

It is easy to imagine that these FL teachers find themselves compelled to prepare to teach in an unfamiliar milieu, one in which they do not feel adequately enough informed so as to be confident of giving their students “their money’s worth.” Over the first four years of FLTeach, this type situation is repeatedly described in letters of foreign language teachers to their colleagues.

And many, many of those colleagues have responded with their professional thoughts, positive and/or negative experiences and best wishes for the upcoming challenges. Over 300 emails to FLTeach have had Block Scheduling as the subject. (And they’ve not stopped coming in, it’s just that we had to stop some place (December 1997) to put this presentation together.)

As apparently was the case with Kathy Kitts, all too often teachers have learned about their shift to Block Scheduling through rumors at Christmas which become administrative announcements shortly after spring break to the effect that come September some sort of Block Scheduling would be in effect. Aileen Peek apparently found out about one month before instruction was to begin.

Let me detail how one system did it differently:

In autumn 1995 my own high school began consideration of the block (or “alternative”) scheduling. We explored (as a faculty and administration together!) what this concept was and how it might be integrated into our school.

Most of our faculty viewed an introductory videotape touting the advantages of this new idea. (from Robert Canaday)  Then our principal paid for 12 teachers and three administrators to attend a three-day workshop (Fri/Sat/Sun) on block scheduling given by a working principal from Pennsylvania who had had three years experience with “the block.” When we returned to school most of us were excited as we started to organize our impressions and form committees to investigate different aspects of such a transition. We had eight teachers from Wasson H.S. in Colorado Springs come to talk with us. (At least one them thought the block was better for the teachers than for the students.) Several teams of faculty checked out the Bloc System as implemented in other school systems within 100 miles. The principal who had spoken at the workshop came for a one day talk to the entire high school staff.

Probably the key administrative decision that helped make this process coalesce and become really productive followed two maxims laid down by a significant article in an educational journal that I can no longer identify: 1)Block Scheduling isn’t likely to work very well if you don’t get your faculty involved; and 2)The final decision about going to Block Scheduling must be made by the faculty itself. (This was not the way important decisions had been made in our school historically.) In 1997 idea of faculty decision was interpreted to mean a vote, today more administrators are talking in the less tangible terms of  decision by “consensus.”

Those ideas were declared up front and --despite some wavering toward the end of the process-- adhered to by the school administration. The school board passed a resolution stating no teacher would lose a job for the first three years if the faculty approved the move to Block Scheduling. (Hmm?) The faculty vote on the block took place in April 1997, 18 months after the discussion and investigation had openly begun. Passage by the faculty would see Block Scheduling in our school district in August 1999, nearly four years after the conversation was initiated. Failure of passage would simply mean that our high school would remain on  the 7-period day it had had for several years. (Up from six periods and quite a bit more work for teachers than previously. Six hours of instruction were now the norm for most teachers.)

It is quite likely that we conducted a model approach in our investigation of Block Scheduling. It was also healthy that the faculty members dug up information and shared it around. We also were forced to look at such a transition from the viewpoint of administrator’s considerations, especially since our administration had been so open and above board about their desire to see us move in this direction. Both experienced teachers and newcomers to the profession lined up on the “pro” side but on the “anti” side as well. Neither age nor experience seemed to play a role (according to my informal observation). Any teacher who was interested in being informed had considerable opportunity for exposure and information.

The result of the faculty vote (by secret ballot, naturally) I’ll not reveal; it is the process that I wanted to bring before your eyes. This stands in stark contrast to the way in which many schools have converted to the Block System.

Lee Risley

And here are the numerous contributors to this much discussed topic:

Robin Ziperman
Lois Zebelman
Mary Young
Janet Woodhouse
JoAnne Wilson
Felicia Williams
Christy Wiatrowshi
Marie Whitehead
Michele Whaley
Patt Webb
Denise Way
Elizabeth Walsh
Jeremy Van Nieumwenhuyzen
Jeffrey Turner
Jim Torbert
Dana Thacker
Diana Swedlund
Jim Sullivan
B. Stratis
Sheryl Smith
Brenda Sloop
Judith Shrum
Judith Shivik
Mike Shellman
Susan Shelby
Ellen Serfaty
Patricia Seaver
Mark Schaaf
Dawn Santiago-Marullo
Meredith Sargent
S. Roth
Steve Rosenzweig
Kelly Rogowski
Linda Roberts
Kenneth Reed
Dorothy Raviele
Denise Rainis
Cathy Quinn
Steve Quick
Stephanie Powell
Robert Ponterio
Erwin Petri
Aileen Peek
Robert Peckham
Ruth Paulsen
Janice Paulsen
Nancy Owens
Sue Orr
Stan Oberg
Christine Noe de Luna
Lynn Nuthals
Douglas Myatt
Bernadette Morris
Danette Mora
Frank Moore
Irene Moon
Carolina Montoya
Cherice Montgomery
Susan Mitchell
Carol Merriman
Gina Melvin
Kendall Mellem
Robbie Marshall
David Marlow
Terri Marlow
Kathy Marker
Kathleen Marcos
Valerie Mantlo
Emily Manschot
Bill Mann
Pamela Lynch
Todd Losie
Ines Lormand
Rhonda Linscott
Ken Lee
Richard Lee
Paul LaReau
Paul Lanciaux
Carol  Ladd
Pamela Knapp
Jody Klopp
Kathy Kitts
Debbie King
Mila Khayutin
Patricia Kessler
Clifford Kent
Sharon Kazmierski
Mike Joyce
Margretta Josephson
Debby Jourdan
Justin Jones
Helen Jones
Charles James
Meryl Jacobson
Jeff Jacobson
Lynn Ingraham
Jeena Huntzinger
Nancy Hulama
Sandra Howard
Joanne Hornak
Jane Holmgren
Judy Henry
Don Hennig
Bill Heller
Sue Hartman
Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez
Sue Harbour
Julie Hamrick
Dee Dee Hamilton
Bob Hall
Carolyn Hackney
Linda Gump
Annette Guizado
Dora Groskopf
Peggy Grasso
David Graham
Joanne Goldstein
Sue Glendening
Cynthia Gerstl
Susan George
Paul Garcia
Douglas Gallagher
Nancy Frumkin
Dee Friel
Russ Freerking
Lydia Frank
Julian Ann Fleming
Janene Fitzpatrick
Carine Feyten
Maria Fanelli
Jeannie Exum
Diana Ellsworth
Angela Ellis
Gayle Eikenberry
Samantha Earp
Oliver Dunn
Harriet Dunn
Marilyn Dryden
Deby Doloff
Michele de Cruz-Saenz
Sean Davis
Laura Davis
Anna Damiens
Beth Damascus
Jean-Jacques d’Aquin
Cynthia Costilla
Kristine Conlon
Paul Conley
Beverly Clinch
Jennie Clifton
David Christian
Kathleen Bulger
Marc Brune
Pete Brooks
Robert Brito
Kathrun Briere
Janel Brennan
Nona Brady
Lee Bradley
Peggy Boyles
Janet Bowler
Todd Bowen
Michael Blaz
Amanda Blanton
Madeline Bishop
Didier Bergeret
Claire Bartlett
Marilyn Barrueta
Jeffrey Barrett
Zev bar-Lev
Abril Banos
Valerie Banks
Carole Baker
Julianne Baird
Sharon Bailey
Melissa Badger
Wendy Allerton
Lori Albright
Cheryl Adams
Scott Aborn


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