Time for a Change: TAMS Implements Block Scheduling

The new schedule increases instructional time in student's core classes

As John F. Kennedy said, “We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch,” the Tyrone Area Middle School is doing just that by instituting block scheduling this school year.

Instead of the traditional 40-45 minute class periods, Tyrone middle school students now have a double period of each core class, which now meet every other day.

“Block scheduling gives us more instructional time for some core classes and more concentrated time for others. This time allows for more student engagement, technology and lab use, and varied instructional strategies””

— Middle School Principal Kristen Pinter

“Block scheduling gives us more instructional time for some core classes and more concentrated time for others. This time allows for more student engagement, technology and lab use, and varied instructional strategies,”  said Middle School Principal Kristen Pinter.

To keep track of when each student has a class, the middle school has “orange” and “black” days.  In seventh grade, if a student has English on an “orange” day, then they would have reading the next “black” day.  

Seventh grade students rotate English and reading, history and science, and have a double period of math everyday.  

According to Pinter, advantages of this new schedule include a reduction of class-to-class transitions and number of teachers each student sees in one day, more time in class to check student understanding and reteach or reinforce before homework is assigned, and the elimination of non-instructional travel time between classes.

According to Pinter, block scheduling increases instructional time by 12 percent a day. In the seventh and  eighth grades instructional time has increased from 40 percent of the day to 62 percent of the school day.  In fifth and sixth grades, instructional time has risen from 67 percent to 79 percent of the school day.

According to the middle school teachers, most have been supportive of the move to block scheduling.  A survey of all the seventh and eighth grade core teachers shows that most enjoy having two periods to finish a lesson and answer questions. Rather than trying to pick up a lesson the next day and hope the students remember the previous day’s instruction, the teachers are able finish a lesson and answer questions all in one day.

“I enjoy block scheduling because it allows me to cover so much more content with my students,” eighth grade English teacher Anne Maddox said.

However, student view on block scheduling is varied in opinion.  When surveyed, seventh and eighth graders had mixed responses.

Many students highly praise the block scheduling, explaining that they have less homework because they have in-class time to work on it.  Also, students enjoy having two days to do homework, instead of one, and having more time in class to ask questions.

A number of students also said that having only three core classes everyday makes the day seem faster and less stressful.

“It makes the day feel shorter and we have more time in class to work on assignments,” middle school student Meredith Carper said.

However, the number of students who praised block scheduling was comparable to the number of students who criticized it.  Several students mentioned that on days when they have classes that they don’t like, the day seems to drag on for forever.  

“I hate block scheduling because we can’t pay attention for two hours, and it melts our brains,” eighth grader Victoria Reese said.

Also, some students who don’t have any friends in their classes say that they miss seeing friends because they don’t switch classes as often.  

Others students say that the block scheduling is confusing and they have a difficult time remembering which classes they have that day, and what they did in their classes two days ago.

However, the most common student complaint is that it is difficult for them to remain attentive for two full class periods without a break. 

“I think students will need to work on developing stamina to be in class for 90 minutes,” seventh grade reading teacher Carey Dunn said.

To help keep students attentive, some teachers are allowing a three minute break when the bell rings. However, many students complain that this causes the bathrooms to become jammed and the hallways congested.  

As for whether block scheduling will continue, Pinter said that the Middle School will reevaluate the schedule as the year progresses and determine a plan for next year based on student performance and feedback from teachers, parents and students.