Brandywine schools may drop block schedules

Published 10:24 am Thursday, February 1, 2007

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Brandywine Middle/High School is considering dropping their block schedule.
Ruth Kittleson, Brandywine curriculum coordinator, said the district has proposed switching to a trimester schedule. The Brandywine board of education is expected to act on the proposal at the Feb. 12 meeting.
"Basically, we have no data to support that block schedule is working," Kittleson said.
Informational meetings about the proposed semester change with middle/high school principal Greg Jones are scheduled for 6 p.m. in the John Carlson Lecture Hall at the middle/high school on Monday, Feb. 5 and Thursday, Feb 8.
Jones reviewed test scores back 10 years, Kittleson said, and found no improvement in performance with the block schedule, which Brandywine has been using for four years. Kittleson also said MEAP test scores have not significantly raised, adding, "we're not showing enough changes to show that block works."
Under the current modified eight block schedule students have four, hour and a half classes every day. Each class is held every other day on a maroon and gold schedule, and each week operates under a different color so classes are held three times one week and twice the next.
The proposed trimester would have students in the same five classes every day across a 12-week period with each class lasting 70 to 75 minutes. Kittleson said each 12 weeks is one semester, which would open up the scheduling options for students.
For example, a student could enroll in Algebra I in the first semester and Algebra II in one of the remaining 12 weeks, and then have the option of taking an art, shop or gym class in the third semester. Credit recovery classes would also be offered for re-taking a class a student failed in an earlier semester.
As a result, Kittleson said students would benefit from focusing on five classes instead of eight, and also by completing two semesters in 120 days instead of 180 days. The new format would also prepare Brandywine for new state-mandated curriculums.
"Hopefully this will help us meet the requirements of the new Michigan Merit high school graduation requirements," Kittleson said.
Both teachers and students have voiced complaints over the current block schedule, Kittleson said. Teachers have a hard time filling a 90-minute class, and students can lose focus.
Plus, she added students have said they don't like the amount of time between classes. Students in class on Thursday don't see that teacher again until Monday.
"[Students] just don't like the long periods. The thing is if you keep students actively engaged for an hour and a half the class goes fast," Kittleson said. "They don't like all the down time, and it's too long until the next class."