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Opinions on block scheduling at Paly--and possibly Gunn?

Original post made by Curious on Oct 11, 2010

Just wondering how people are liking the new block scheduling at Paly and whether anyone knows if it will be starting at Gunn too (and if so, when)--any opinions?

Comments (19)

Posted by Paly student, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I hate the block schedule, I know its supposed to help with the homework load but I don't really feel it does some of my teachers even double the homework. Also It's really hard to keep paying attention for the full 90 min and some of my teachers don't know what to do with the time so they just let us do whatever or put 2 lessons in one day. It wastes time and I despise it

Posted by 3 Kids Here, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 11, 2010 at 8:04 pm

I have a sophomore son who loves the new block schedule. He likes the later (8:15am) start -- the extra 25 min in the morning. He thinks it is easier to manage the homework load, and says that he hasn't found the longer classes to be an issue. One other benefit is that his backpack is significantly lighter most days since there is only one day a week when he has all his classes -- that in itself is a big positive! As far as effective use by the teachers, it is a significant change, so I would expect it to take a bit of time for them to rework how they teach their subjects. I would anticipate it to get better throughout the year.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 11, 2010 at 8:33 pm

My freshman loves it and says it does reduce stress because it's not every class each day. And it is certainly easier on the back because his backpack is lighter, besides on Mondays when he has all 7 classes. He is okay with the 90 minutes but I can understand how it it might be difficult for some. On Tuesdays, they are out an hour early. On Thursdays, they have mandatory Tutorial, which is the last period (60 minutes) where they can study or see teachers, and they are released 30 minutes earlier than usual.

The downside of block is that world languages are more easily learned if they are everyday.

Here's the Paly bell schedule: Web Link

My only complaint about the Paly schedule is that they continually make exceptions so my son has been confused sometimes. Advisories are always being changed (only freshman or only A-Z, etc.).

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Having suffered through the similar schedule at Gunn, I can say that more than likely, the top of the class, academically, will do OK with it, and the bottom will suffer. It isn't a good concept for students who struggle.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 11, 2010 at 10:33 pm

My sophomore likes it even though he is getting there for 0 period for all the above reasons. However there are issues with finishing later when it comes to getting to an after school activity which starts at 4.00. The afternoons and evenings are shorter some days and we do have to pay more attention to the time or it gets late without knowing. This will be less of a problem when dst ends so it is not a big problem.

Posted by PALY203, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 12, 2010 at 9:32 am

There are always benefits and pitfalls. The later start time is very positive. The start time is separate issue from the 90 minute block periods. It can be confusing week to week because the admin is constantly having to mix up the days to get every class balanced in a week. This is due to holidays or special days. This can create large breaks between days that classes meet. For example, you have a science lab on a Tuesday and because of the schedule with a may not see your science class for a full week...Not good for learning and this happens more than you would think!!!

We have noticed that there is less rushing in the classroom. For example, teachers have more time to give exams. The teachers are less stressed with fewer classes. And it is nice to only have 3-4 classes per day vs. all 6-7 classes to juggle in the day.

Most of the teachers are trying to make the adjustments on their own. There is no evidence of formal teacher training to deal with a 90 minute period. (Although, admin says that the teachers get training?) Some teachers are realistic and creative. They understand that a student have an attention span of approx. 20 minute...there are several studies that support this fact. Those that understand mix up the time to keep the students engaged.

The opposite end of the spectrum is that some teachers just don't know how to adjust..imagine seating at a desk..dared to make a peep and being lectured to... staring at an overhead projection of 40+ black & white slides for 90 minutes straight on US history. NO breaks!!

The fact is that good teachers use the time to everyones advantage, and poor teachers just make the experience more painful.
It is a promising concept. Advocate for teacher training...Advocate for more interactive, creative classroom guidelines.
Good luck to Gunn!

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 12, 2010 at 10:17 am

Positives -

Later (and consistent!!!) start
Easier homework load from an organizational standpoint, home amount is the same
Most teachers seem to get the need to take a break and are organizing their lessons appropriately

There has only been one "regular" week since school began
Very hard to sit for that long

Tutorial - nice in theory, not sure why its ok to "play" instead of work (the gym, weight room), the jury is still out on that one

To parent - advisory changes have nothing to do with the block schedule, they have always met inconsistently.

Posted by janisw, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 12, 2010 at 11:28 am

My high school had true block scheduling (including blocks of free time for study) 40 years ago and we loved it. We could do our homework & research at school during the school day where all the resources we needed (including libraries, teachers and the time & places to do group projects) were readily available. It allowed for shorter, more intensive 45 minute or l hr (small group) seminar classes as well as longer 1 1/2 hr labs and 2 hr (large group) lecture classes in the same subject. 1 hr PE classes are almost useless after factoring in changing/shower times on either end. Change to one 45 minute instruction/testing day and two 1 1/2 - 2hr blocks per week and you get reasonable "game time" and some good exercise. Block scheduling in high school made the transition to college scheduling almost seamless. One less adjustment to make as a college Freshman is a GOOD thing :) This is a good change - embrace it!

Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Thanks, everybody--this is all really interesting. Does anyone know whether Gunn is going to try block scheduling too?

Posted by Anne, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Our family really likes the Paly block schedule. I feel like it's made life at home so much more relaxed. The kids don't have the pressure of having homework due in every class every day. It allows us more family time. Tutorial has been very useful. One of my kids uses it to get a jump start on homework. The other one can meet with a teacher without having to schedule it in advance. Overall, I'd say it's a big improvement.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2010 at 12:04 am

I have not heard of any students, teachers, parents or the admin advocating for a block schedule at Gunn.

Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2010 at 8:57 am

Thanks again, everyone. In terms of the confusion that can arise from changing schedules, I'm wondering why high schools can't just schedule their courses like many colleges do. Some classes, for instance, could meet for an hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while others could meet for 1 1/2 hours on Tuesday and Thursday. Or, if there's some rule that classes have to meet for a certain number of hours per week, schools could just increase the time accordingly but still keep some classes meeting MWF and the others TTh.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 13, 2010 at 9:37 am

Curious -

Paly classes are currently structured so all meet M, 1/2 meet T and TH and the other 1/2 meet W and F. Its really wouldn't be confusing except that they keep changing the set schedule for other things like club day, college awareness day, etc.

Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm

So far we liked it quite a bit, it helps stay in focus

Posted by One other mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2010 at 7:19 pm

My freshman son likes it very much. He thinks more can get done in class this way... I also think the later start time, at the same time every day, is particularly useful.

Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Thanks, palo alto mom (and everyone else). Most people seem to be liking the block schedule, so I'm wondering why it isn't being considered at Gunn.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2010 at 9:39 pm

I'm not surprised that all the university-bound kids like it. I would be interested in hearing what the parents of struggling kids think of the new schedule.

Posted by a Paly student who is neither struggling nor particularly academically adept, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Personally, I find the 8:15 am start time very helpful, but I am unable to sit through consistent 1 hr 30 min. block periods, especially when the instructors themselves are bored and don't know what to say. I feel that, for more incompetent teachers, much of the lesson plan is simply filler.

As far as Tutorial goes, I find it useless and a waste of time. During this extra hour, all I do is go to an easier class of mine (or my friends') with my friends and kill time.

Posted by paly student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I'm interested in knowing what people would do during blocks last year if they found it so hard to pay attention. Most of my block periods seem to go by just as fast as the non-block periods from last year. The alternating periods also reduces the homework load, regardless of what people may say. With the system now, it's extremely rare that all of your classes will have work due on the same day. The difference is significant.

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