After 20 years, Sandwich High School is making a break from its block scheduling and moving to a schedule that allows students to take core subjects such as math and English all year long and offers more elective class opportunities.
With block scheduling, students schedule a total of eight classes each year—four for the fall and four for the spring. Each block runs 84 minutes and core classes such as English, math, science, and social studies are only taken for half the year.
This format poses several problems for students. Principal James Mulcahy said that one of the biggest problems is the potential for students to not have a core subject for an entire year, for example if they took English in the fall of sophomore year and not again until the spring of junior year.
“It doesn’t benefit students to have that lapse in skill-building,” he said.
District data specialist Erin Piantedosi said that some students lose ground in their core subject knowledge during these long lapses.
The block schedule also poses a difficulty when it comes to MCAS testing, which is conducted each spring for 8th and 10th graders in the school. Students who had completed math and English in the fall before testing is conducted had an edge over the students who were taking the classes in the spring and had not yet completed the curriculum.
“Everyone has their own opinion on standardized testing, but in the end colleges and the state judge us on it,” Mr. Mulcahy said.
Block scheduling also limits the number of Advanced Placement and elective courses each student could take during his or her high school career. Since AP classes are year-long classes, by the end of their senior year high-achieving students could take about five of those classes over their years in high school.
Mr. Mulcahy said that the new schedule will allow those students to take as many as 12 or 13 AP courses if they want to.
The new schedule is called a “seven, drop one” schedule. It will be instituted both at the high school and STEM Academy. This means that students will enroll in seven courses. There are six periods in a day, so each day one course will be dropped and taken the next day.
The schedule will rotate through seven days through seven classes over blocks labeled A through F. On Day 7, A Block will start with Class 7 and continue with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, dropping the 6th class. Day 6 will start with Class 6 and continue with 7, 1, 2, 3, and 4, dropping the 5th class.
Each individual block will be 51 minutes long, with the exception of an 89-minute D Block to accommodate four different lunch blocks and a 28-minute block called “Knight Time”, which allows students to schedule time every day with teachers who teach classes that they need help with.
Every Monday, students will schedule their week of Knight Time during their advisory block. If the student is absent on Monday, the advisory teacher will schedule their Knight Time for them.
The schedule will work the same for both the students at the high school as well as at the STEM Academy.
Guidance department director Kathy Lucas expects the new scheduling to be well-received.
“It’s really going to be a positive change,” she said. “People want the kids to have year-long core courses.”
She said that she has already seen an uptick in the number of AP classes that students are registering for, too. While during the current year there are students taking two AP classes, there are students who have enrolled in four for next year.