Monday, November 05, 2001

Teachers, pupils laud 'block' system

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — A majority of teachers and students prefer a block schedule to the old period system, according to preliminary results from a study of Fairfield City Schools' 4-year-old approach.

        At least some teachers in every subject area had concerns, but they were in a minority and were not concentrated in any one subject area, said Joan Bruno, a retired educator who volunteered to conduct the study.

        She said there was a correlation between teachers' satisfaction with the block schedule and satisfaction of students.

        Under the schedule, students take up to four, 90-minute classes each semester instead of seven, 50-minute classes.

        Those teachers who haven't changed teaching styles and still rely heavily on lecturing were least happy with the block, as were students in their classes.

        Previously, school days consisted of six or seven periods. Mrs. Bruno said additional staff training is needed to help teachers better use their time and keep students interested.

        “The block has helped us in a number of ways,” said Robert Polson, principal at the freshman school. “It has been a wonderful thing for us.”

        Since the block schedule was implemented there, proficiency test scores are better, and discipline referrals are down, Mr. Polson said.

        Similar results have been seen at the senior high school, said Monica Mitter, high school principal.

        “Our environment is calmer, gentler, not as fast-paced as before,” said Mr. Polson, who said he had some concerns with the block schedule at first. “Some of the perceptions don't measure out to statistics.”

        For example, there was some concern that students wouldn't retain material in math or foreign languages if there were a semester or yearlong break between courses.

        Other concerns had to do with not being able to take music courses. Mrs. Bruno said there was no drop in test scores — math showed improvement over the four years — and about 20 percent of the high school students were enrolled in music classes.

        Instruction could be improved if class size were reduced. The advanced classes and remedial were very small but the middle-level classes were large, Mrs. Bruno noted.

        A final report will be presented at the Board of Education's Dec. 13 meeting.


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