Mundelein High educators critical of block schedule

  • Superintendent Kevin Myers talks Tuesday about the pros and cons of Mundelein High's unusual block schedule.

    Superintendent Kevin Myers talks Tuesday about the pros and cons of Mundelein High's unusual block schedule. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

  • Mundelein High School officials are considering changing the bell schedule.

    Mundelein High School officials are considering changing the bell schedule. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted7/27/2016 5:10 AM

Educators studying the pros and cons of Mundelein High School's block bell schedule came out strongly against the unusual scheme during a special school board meeting Tuesday.

Citing independent studies and their own experiences, they said students on the block schedule -- in which students take only four courses each semester -- don't perform as well on end-of-year tests and on Advanced Placement tests as students who attend schools with traditional eight-period days.

 

The team also said Mundelein students don't have as much time to learn material as they should because classes in a block schedule are compressed to a single semester instead of lasting a full year.

"It hurts our kids," teacher Dean Petros said.

Mundelein High has been on a block schedule since 1996. Instead of eight 50-minute periods each day, students have four 90-minute sessions.

Superintendent Kevin Myers led the presentation to the school board, which ultimately will decide whether to keep the block schedule or return to a more traditional day in 2017 or beyond.

The goal, Myers said, is to implement a schedule that best meets the needs of all students.

Block-schedule proponents say the longer periods allow more time for hands-on learning and discourage long lectures. Additionally, students can have a more diverse schedule over a high school career because courses are completed quicker.

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But that lack of consistency over a school year causes problems, Myers' team said. They especially criticized what's known as the "gap time," the time between courses in the same subject.

Students can forget important material during the gap time, which sometimes can be as long as a year, said Stacey Gorman, the school's director of curriculum and instruction.

That deficiency can lower performance on standardized tests and college-entrance exams and thus impair students' chances to get into the colleges of their choice, Gorman said.

To illustrate the problem, Gorman showed the board the schedule of a hypothetical student who -- because of the block schedule -- only takes math classes for 18 months over the course of a four-year high school career.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In contrast, Gorman said a student following a traditional schedule would take math for 36 months in high school.

"We can't overcome the gap time," she said.

The team mentioned several other shortcomings, including an inflexibility in scheduling for some academically struggling students and the need to remove students who need special services from core classes instead of less-critical periods.

Two alternatives eventually were proposed: a traditional eight-period day, or a modified block schedule that mixes four- and eight-period days.

Mundelein High officials last investigated ending the block schedule in 2004, but took no action.

In 2014, a long-range planning committee proclaimed the schedule the school's top issue.

More discussions will occur before the board makes a decision on the schedule.

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