Arlington, VA

A plan to implement block scheduling at Arlington’s five middle schools has been greeted with resistance from parents.

Block scheduling allows extended classes for core subjects — like math and science — in order to increase instruction time. In a Washington Post article that termed block scheduling a “fad,” Arlington Public Schools officials said the system gives teachers greater flexibility for creative and personalized instruction.

School Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy, who installed a block schedule when he was the principal of a middle school in Fairfax County, said regular-length periods are too short for the kind of creative teaching needed. “We are doing a disservice to students to run them through a seven-period day with a 45 minute turnaround,” he said.

Margaret Gilhooley, interim assistant superintendent for instruction, said that, in elementary school, “if a class is not grasping a concept, you can expand the time.” With just 45 minutes in middle school, that is difficult to do.

Parents who oppose the plan contend that block scheduling will have a negative impact on certain types of non-core elective classes, like music, and that middle school students don’t have the attention span for a 90-minute math class. Also, say some parents, why should APS change a scheduling system that’s already producing good educational results?

The School Board is expected to examine the issue in May, while implementation of block scheduling is set for the fall of 2013.

From the perspective of either a parent or of someone who once attended middle school, what do you think about the plan?

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