The seasons, they go ’round and ’round, and the painted ponies go up and down.
No, I’m not just having a Joni Mitchell musical flashback. The painted ponies on my mind are block scheduling and the way school systems – Milwaukee Public Schools particularly – make and unmake decisions, over and over.
Block scheduling of high schools and middle schools is an idea that seems to come around, pass by, then come around again. In fact, at the moment, it is both coming and going in the Milwaukee area.
Under a block plan, the traditional daily schedule of seven classes of 45 or 50 minutes is replaced with four classes of 80 to 90 minutes. Commonly, courses are completed in a quarter, rather than a semester, and then new classes start. Some argue that longer class periods allow different learning styles and more depth. Others argue block schedules mean more wasted time. I’ve seen evidence of both in classes I’ve observed. Research nationally doesn’t reach a strong overall verdict.
Brookfield East and Brookfield Central high schools in the Elmbrook district will switch to blocks for the coming school year. And Homestead High School in Mequon is going to a relatively rare trimester program, in which the school year will be broken into three sections. As part of that, there will be fewer, but longer, classes each day.