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No Block Scheduling in Middle Schools Next Year

By Katie Pyzyk - ARLNow.com

Wednesday - 6/20/2012, 11:15am  ET

A plan for changing the way the county’s middle schools do class scheduling appears to be on the chopping block, at least for now. The Arlington Public Schools proposal to implement block scheduling at middle schools will not happen in the 2013-2014 school year, after all.

The change would have extended core class times for subjects like English, math, social studies, science and world languages, but would have reduced the number of classes per day. Longer “block” periods for sixth graders would have been 76 minutes, and would increase to 93 minutes for seventh and eighth graders. Electives like music and arts would have remained at the current, shorter length.

Many parents fought the change, raising concerns with children of that age having to concentrate for such long periods of time, and about eliminating electives.

At last night’s School Board meeting, there was a presentation laying out what APS has learned about public reception to block scheduling and how it plans to go forward. Through means like community forums, staff meetings, online surveys and individual feedback forms, APS discovered that block scheduling largely isn’t something middle school parents are interested in. APS said it heard that parents prefer focusing on issues like providing more languages for students, maintaining electives and ensuring appropriate reading instruction.

The change has been in the works for five years, but consideration of the plan had been delayed earlier this year, due to outcry from parents. At the time, APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said postponing a decision would allow for more time to adequately discuss the issue with families.

Although block scheduling will no longer begin in 2013, it’s not permanently off the table. The board is examining ways to make it work in the future. Of particular interest is finding alternative ways to increase the amount of time spent on core content areas. The length of schools days and start times will also come under review.

Even though the plan was nixed for middle schools system-wide, individual schools have the option of exploring their own flexible block schedules. Block scheduling is already in place at Yorktown, Wakefield and Washington-Lee high schools.