Broward County high schools to revert to block scheduling
By Brittany Shammas, Sun Sentinel
Instead of seven short course periods each day, students at most Broward County high schools will soon have longer classes that meet every other day.
Teachers at 21 of the district’s 30 traditional high schools chose the new schedule over currently required seven-period days. It means students will take four classes one day and four different classes the next, with one of the eight set aside as a study hall.
The change extends the length of each class – and teachers’ daily planning time – from 50 to 90 minutes. It goes into effect next school year and will continue in 2017-18.
The option is meant to relieve the heavy workload carried by teachers since 2012, when the district mandated seven-period schedules to help meet class size requirements. That mandate has instructors teaching six classes each day; the new schedules have them teaching six classes over two days.
“From the teachers’ standpoint, they felt that they were just always going at a fast pace,” said Alan Strauss, a director in the district’s Office of School Performance & Accountability. “So we heard that, and just teachers saying they felt beat down, worn down at the end of each day.”
Faculty at each school voted on which schedule to adopt. Changes required a two-thirds majority with 80 percent of faculty present.
Teachers at eight schools – Deerfield Beach, Dillard, Hallandale, Lauderhill 6-12, Miramar, South Plantation, Stone-man and Stranahan – decided to maintain the seven-period schedules. Those at a ninth, Boyd Anderson, picked an option in which there are three 100-minute block periods and one 50-minute period each day and block periods meet every other day.
Some teachers raised concerns about a loss of instructional time – about 700 minutes over the course of the year. Strauss acknowledged that, but said the teacher, not the way the time is bundled, makes the ultimate difference in student learning.
In the past, committees comprised of teachers, parents, students and community members were involved in votes to change schedules, but teacher contracts no longer require that. Still, Strauss said school communities were part of the conversation.
Linda Gaynor, a mother of two daughters at Coral Glades High, said she saw the pros and cons on both sides.
“I know that some kids might find a longer class period harder to handle,” said Gaynor, secretary of the school’s Parent Teacher Student Organization. “But at the same time, I absolutely understand the argument about how with a longer class period you can get more done. I know the teachers talk about how by the time they get set up and get into the lesson, it’s time to pack up again.”
Gregory Rhinehart, a Spanish teacher at Hollywood Hills High, said that was especially true for his classes.
“In language learning, the goal is to talk to your peers as much as you can and be expos-ed to the language as much as you can,” he said. “You just can’t get anything done in 50 minutes.”
The new schedules should also make it easier for students to manage their workloads, Strauss said. They’ll have to get through homework for four classes a day instead of seven, and they’ll have more time to get work done during the study hall, which the district is calling a “personalization period.”
Erica Kenick was on a block schedule years ago as a student at Cypress Bay High. Now an English teacher at the school, she said she’s looking forward to the change.
“I think overall it’s going to afford the students more time to complete assignments and it’ll be less overwhelming,” she said. “The chief complaint I hear from my students is, ‘We don’t have enough time.’”
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