By Rajkamal Rao
|Image courtesy: Shutterstock|
School districts engage in block class schedules to maximize resources (class room space, time during a day, the availability of teachers, variety of classes to avoid boredom, and the number of school weeks in a semester). Block scheduling works well whether the school follows a semester system or a trimester system (such as HEB ISD where the year is broken down into three 12-week trimesters).
The easiest way to explain this concept is through an example. Consider Frisco ISD which works on the so-called A-B block schedule. Here's the schedule for Wakeland High School.
Wakeland High School Day
9:00 am - 4:15 pm
1A and 1B periods 9:00 am - 10:30 am
2A and 2B periods 10:35 am - 12:05pm
Tutorial/Advisory 12:10 pm - 12:35 pm everyday
3A and 3B periods 12:40 pm - 2:40 pm
4A and 4B periods 2:45 pm – 4:15 pm
(A) 12:35 – 1:02
(B) 1:07 – 1:34
(C) 1:39 – 2:06
(D) 2:11 – 2:39
Notice that both A and B Blocks have 4 class periods each, with each period lasting 1½ hours. Each Block-class combination is worth a ½ credit during a semester of 18 weeks.
During week 1 of the Fall semester, a high school student taking her favorite subject would have three A-Block classes (M-W-F) and 2 B-Block classes (Tue, Thu). During week 2, she would have three B-Block classes (M-W-F) and two A-Block classes (Tue, Thu). In effect, each student sits in a 1½-hour class period for five classes over two weeks, amounting to 7½ hours of instruction. This amounts to 7½ x 9 = 67.5 hours of instruction over an entire semester. Why 9? Because there are nine two-week blocks in an 18-week semester.
Suppose a student has the following Fall schedule:
- Pre-AP English II (Assume A-Block)
- AP Spanish 4
- Pre-AP Chemistry
- AP Computer Science (Fall)
So what's the maximum number of credits that a student can earn in a year? That's easy. We know there are 6 instructional hours a day, i.e., 30 hours a week. There are 36 weeks in a school year. This adds up to 36 * 30 = 1,080 hours during a school year. Divide this by 135 hours and you get 8 credits.
What about double-blocked classes? Some subjects, such as AP Computer Science, have too much content to complete in a year through standard single-blocking. By double-blocking this course, the student ends up taking AP Computer Science every day of the week during the entire semester, and thus, the entire year. This amounts to 270 hours of instruction over an entire year. In return, the student earns two high school credits. The below schedule is of one continuing AP Computer Science in the Spring semester.
- AP World History
- Pre-AP PreCalc
- AP Computer Science (Spring)
- Debate - 2
[For the record, FISD does not list AP Computer Science as a double-blocked course, but as one that earns 2 credits, so the effect is the same. A better example for double-blocked courses is GT American Studies which integrates two Advanced Placement courses (and like AP Computer Science) is worth 2 credits. GT American Studies combines AP Language and Composition with AP U.S History; therefore, the class is double blocked over the A day/B day time block].
The summary is that students earning a full high school credit in the A-B block scheduling arrangement will take a class 3 days a week, followed by 2 days the next week. They will continue this 2-week schedule for the entire year.
A Note About Rao Advisors Premium Services
Our promise is to empower you with high-quality, ethical and free advice via this website. But parents and students often ask us if they can engage with us for individual counseling sessions. We are indebted and privileged to have earned their trust in matters which are so important to them. Please check out our public Google reviews to see what they say about us.
Individual counseling is part of the Premium Offering of Rao Advisors and involves a fee. Please contact us for more information.