by Jay Joseph ‘22
Schools in MCPS have officially closed until April 24 and, given the progression of COVID-19, will probably remain so until fall. Due to this long-term school closure, Sherwood has the opportunity to rethink how students complete their courses during the school year.
Currently, Sherwood has a traditional high school schedule. This means that students take seven 45-minute classes each day, completing courses over the timespan of a school year. However, in a 4×4 block schedule, students take four lengthened classes each day, completing a course in a semester rather than a full year. At face value, this scheduling system sounds appealing, but there are drawbacks to match the benefits that come with the system.
This type of schedule has three main issues. The first is that the lengthened classes that range from 75 minutes to 90 minutes can strain a student’s attention span and engagement in class. Furthermore, studies have shown that some teachers fail to utilize the lengthened classes and don’t switch to more student-engaging lessons, reducing the effectiveness of classes. The schedule is also bound to reduce the total time students spend on each course. Opponents of this schedule argue that it gives students too little time to properly learn a course’s material. A 4×4 block schedule would also interfere with the continuity of learning, since students can forget the information learnt in a core course over a semester gap like they do over the holidays.
However, supporters of this schedule argue that it is a stress reliever for students. A 4×4 block schedule allows for only four classes to be taken each day. This gives students less homework and more time to devote to improving on a singular subject. Some schools even allot less than 90 minutes for each class, giving students a 30 to 45 minute study hall. Students are able to finish their homework in school and meet with teachers for assistance during the time period. This ensures that students have quality time to improve in their studies and to enjoy their personal life at home without an overwhelming load of homework. Furthermore, teachers can create active lessons that are more engaging to students with a longer class. They also have more time to connect with their students and longer planning periods. The schedule would make it easier to double-up on classes for earlier graduation, as well.
Is the stress reliever schedule worth its longer class hours and discontinuity is the question school administrators have to ask when debating the structure of classes within their school. While there seems to be numerous benefits to the schedule, its potential pitfalls are significant.