Wednesday, December 03, 2008

APS Writes A Block Scheduling Check And I Wonder If It Will Bounce

"Albuquerque's 13 traditional high schools will all switch to a new seven-period block schedule next year, as approved Tuesday by principals."--Albuquerque Journal, 12.3.08

Well that was fast. Or methodical, meaningful and something else that starts with the letter "M" if you believe the "APS/AFT Block Schedule Task Force" really exists(ed).

I may be in the minority here, but I, for one, welcome our new (possibly imaginary) Task Force overlords, and like the new high school schedule. I don't even mind that it's standardized across schools. I also like it (with somewhat shorter blocks) as a model for our middle schools, including my own. I do have a few questions, however, questions that I could just ask the "APS/AFT Block Schedule Task Force" if I could find more than two references to it via Google. So instead I ask them here:

  1. Do teachers get a daily "prep" period in this schedule, or every other day?
  2. Overall class loads for "regular education" teachers determine individual class sizes and the number of teachers/rooms required by a school. If teachers get a daily prep, that means they teach 2 only blocks a day (and possibly a 51 minute daily class). That's four total classes over the two days of A/B block. Which means each class will be forced to have 35 kids in it, or we gotta hire a bunch of extra teachers (and find rooms for all these teachers). And now the question...right?
  3. If teachers only get a prep every other day of the A/B portion (every day but Friday), that means they have five total classes (not including the 51 minute class), and from an overall class load perspective makes more sense. Five classes of 25-28 kids puts a total class load at around 125-140. But is that even legal? Can teachers only get a "prep" every other day?
  4. Who is teaching all those 51 minute daily periods? Everybody? Some people with others getting to use the time for a 2nd "prep" for "collaborative planning"?
I'm not saying these questions/obstacles are deal-breakers, I just want to know the answers/solutions. In fact, the whole thing makes me want to move from my current middle school to a high school just to see what happens. I also have to be honest and say that while I might have concerns about middle schoolers sitting in a classroom for 75, 80, 90 minutes in a block, the idea of teaching three classes a day (in middle school the blocks would be shorter, hence another class), and having a 75, 80, 90 minute "prep" everyday sounds pretty sweet.

More objectively, I have to return to the kids squirming in seats for such long time issue along with the costs. APS Head Honcho for Something I Can't Remember Linda Sink was recently quoted as saying the A/B block was expensive (see hiring teacher comment in question two above). Now the high schools are going to an A/B block (with the martini olive of a "C" Friday schedule plopped in). How is that not just as expensive? How does the District pay for all the teachers/rooms needed to create this schedule while also preventing massive class sizes and/or teacher class loads?



Ray Maseman said...

There is at least one APS middle school--Taylor--that has a block schedule. There are four blocks a day, with eight more normal length periods on Fridays. The blocks are about 80 minutes long. Teachers get one prep/day, which is supposed to include both prep and collaboration/team meetings.
Studetns have Language Arts (a combination of the usual middle school literature & lang arts classes) and Math everyday, an alternate Social Studies/Science and 2 electives the other blocks.
The long time period works great for science, PE, and most electives. For other subject areas, it depends on the teacher. If you try teaching English/Math/Soc studies the same as you did with a 40-50 minute period, it can be a mess. You have to break up the block with different activities, and do more project-based learning, which is, conveniently, easier to do with blocks.
The classes were bigger, and the school had to get a waiver for that, renewed each year. It did make the space tight at times, but all told I think it was worth it.

The school I work at now, Del Norte, is going to a block next year. I am looking forward to seeing how that goes.

Evan said...

I don't know about this block schedule thing...

Would it mean that I have to take two "free periods" - one per A/B day (and who knows about a C day) - to take classes at CNM or UNM?

I also kind of like getting up later on Wednesdays and Thursdays...

And perhaps most important of all: I don't know if I can stand some classes for an hour and a half two to three times a week, rather than the present once a week.

Anonymous said...

We have an AB schedule at my mid school and we love it! What is bothering me about this change to Block Scheduling for high school is that once again they take something that is working for some schools (such as their own versions of a block schedule) and want to change it so its ALL THE SAME. Honest to God - Does Win-Dog have the song Little Boxes on the Hillside playing continuously in his office?