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A Comparative Study of Block Scheduling and Traditional Scheduling on Academic Achievement.

This study compared the academic achievement of high school students on the block schedule with the academic achievement of high school students on the traditional schedule. The goal was to determine what impact if any block scheduling Block scheduling is a type of academic scheduling in which each student has fewer classes per day for a longer period of time. This is intended to result in more time for teaching due to less time wasted due to class switching and preparation.  would have upon academic achievement.

The sample included secondary students from two high schools in the same school district in the Southeastern region of North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop.
. The four North Carolina End-of Course tests (Algebra algebra, branch of mathematics concerned with operations on sets of numbers or other elements that are often represented by symbols. Algebra is a generalization of arithmetic and gains much of its power from dealing symbolically with elements and operations (such as  1, Biology, English 1, and U. S. History), which are required of all students who graduate with a diploma DIPLOMA. An instrument of writing, executed by, a corporation or society, certifying that a certain person therein named is entitled to a certain distinction therein mentioned.
, provided the necessary data. T-tests were used to compare the two groups' means for each of the four subject areas to determine if a significant difference existed at the .05 level of significance. The findings revealed that students on the traditional schedule scored significantly higher on the Algebra 1, Biology, English I and U. S. History tests than students on the block schedule.


Since the National Commission on Excellence in Education The National Commission on Excellence in Education produced the 1983 report titled A Nation at Risk. It was chaired by David P. Gardner and included prominent members such as Nobel prize-winning chemist Glenn T. Seaborg.  published its report, A Nation at Risk (1983), Americans have questioned our educational effectiveness. In the 1980's and continuing into the 1990's, school administrators and teachers have been criticized regarding the inefficient and ineffective use of school time.

The National Education Commission on Time and Learning (1994) published a report addressing national concerns regarding allocations of time and use of the school day for instructional purpose. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 the report,
   learning in America is a prisoner of time. For the past 150 years, American
   public schools have held time constant and let learning vary. The rule only
   rarely voiced is simple: learn what you can in the time we make available.
   It should surprise no one that bright, hardworking students do reasonably
   well. Everyone else from the typical student to the dropout - runs into
   trouble. The degree to which today's American school is controlled by the
   dynamics of clock and calendar is surprising even to people who understand
   school operations (National Education Commission on Time and Learning,
   1994, p. 7).

Cushman (1989) emphasized that today's secondary schools are designed as though students face the same lifestyles their grandparents grandparents nplabuelos mpl

grandparents grand nplgrands-parents mpl

grandparents grand npl
 did while noticeable differences are obvious. Previously, students learned punctuality Punctuality
Fogg, Phileas

completes world circuit at exact minute he wagered he would. [Fr. Lit.: Around the World in Eighty Days]


disciplined family brought up to abide by strict, punctual standards. [Am. Lit.
, obedience OBEDIENCE. The performance of a command.
     2. Officers who obey the command of their superiors, having jurisdiction of the subject-matter, are not responsible for their acts.
 to authorities, and tolerance of repetition,k boredom Boredom
See also Futility.

Aldegonde, Lord St.

bored nobleman, empty of pursuits. [Br. Lit.: Lothair]

Baudelaire, Charles

(1821–1867) French poet whose dissipated lifestyle led to inner despair. [Fr. Lit.
, and discomfort. During the 18th and 19th centuries, students were trained for farm and industrial work. According to Edwards (1991),judgment, decision-making, creativity, high technological knowledge and independence were neither taught nor expected.

The 1990's called for different thinking, behaviors, and practices. Society and its expectations have changed drastically. Things that were once objectionable are now required such as creativity and technology issues.

In an effort to better meet society's expectations and to make better use of gained knowledge, educators are now focusing on educational restructuring restructuring - The transformation from one representation form to another at the same relative abstraction level, while preserving the subject system's external behaviour (functionality and semantics). . One such focus has been the school calendar year. Another focus has been the time scheduled for classes. Secondary educators now ask the question, "Does the traditional high school schedule most appropriately meet the instructional demands and expectations of teachers and students?" An even more poignant question emerges- "How does student achievement vary with different class schedules?"

Purposes of the Study

The purpose of this study was to compare the test scores in selected school subjects (Algebra 1, Biology, English I and U. S. History) for students on a traditional class schedule with those on a block schedule.

In the early 1990's, the allocation of instructional time (Edwards. 1991: Canady & Rettig, 1993; and Schoenstein, 1944) has been investigated from different perspectives. Yet, there is a lack of scientific support regarding the effect of block scheduling on student academic achievement. Since the number of schools adopting this method of instructional organization is on the increase, a study with a design such as this one could provide public school administrators and decision makers with additional information for determining if block scheduling has an academic advantage over traditional scheduling.

To explore the purpose of this study in a systematic way, the following null A character that is all 0 bits. Also written as "NUL," it is the first character in the ASCII and EBCDIC data codes. In hex, it displays and prints as 00; in decimal, it may appear as a single zero in a chart of codes, but displays and prints as a blank space.  hypotheses were tested:

Hypothesis 1: Secondary students' Algebra I scores on the block schedule will not differ significantly from secondary students' Algebra I scores on the traditional schedule.

Hypothesis 2: Secondary students' Biology scores on the block schedule will not differ significantly from secondary students' Biology scores on the traditional schedule.

Hypothesis 3: Secondary students' English I scores on the block schedule will not differ significantly from secondary students' English I scores on the traditional schedule.

Hypothesis 4: Secondary students' U. S. History scores on the block schedule will not differ significantly from secondary students' U. S. History scores on the traditional schedule.


The population for this study was high school students enrolled in a school district in southeastern North Carolina. According to the 1995 State Report Card (North Carolina 1995), the economic profile for this region was less than the state profile. The average household income for this region was $27,274 compared to $38,063 for the state as a whole. Persons in this region with no high school diploma A high school diploma is a diploma awarded for the completion of high school. In the United States and Canada, it is considered the minimum education required for government jobs and higher education. An equivalent is the GED.  equaled 42.1% of the population as compared to 30% of the population of the state with no high school diploma. The student population in the southeastern region is 51.4% African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. , 41.6% white, 6.8% Native American and 0.2% Hispanic.

Cluster sampling Cluster sampling is a sampling technique used when "natural" groupings are evident in a statistical population. It is often used in marketing research. In this technique, the total population is divided into these groups (or clusters) and a sample of the groups is selected.  was used to select the sample for this study. Two schools were selected because they were the first two of the three high schools in the county to adopt the block schedule instructional model. The North Carolina End-of-Course Assessment instruments were used for data collection. These instruments were used because all students are required to take the end-of-course tests for graduation Graduation is the action of receiving or conferring an academic degree or the associated ceremony. The date of event is often called degree day. The event itself is also called commencement, convocation or invocation. , thus providing a large sample. Data were collected during the school years 199293, 1993-94, fall semester se·mes·ter  
One of two divisions of 15 to 18 weeks each of an academic year.

[German, from Latin (cursus) s
 1994-95, spring semester 1994-95 and fall semester 1995-96.

A causal/comparative study design was used to compare test scores in four subject areas on a traditional schedule to test scores in those same subject areas on the block schedule for secondary students representing the population. Causal causal /cau·sal/ (kaw´z'l) pertaining to, involving, or indicating a cause.


relating to or emanating from cause.
 comparative studies (such as this one) seek to discover the causes and effects of a behavior by comparing individuals to whom the behavior has occurred with individuals to whom the behavior has not occurred. Such studies occur after the treatment has taken place (Gall, Borg & Gail, 1996). The study though comparative resembled a historical approach because the groups were already formed based on students' enrollment in the four courses and test results for the sample were readily available.

Data Analysis

The school system provided summary data using the Data Analyst software package published by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Summary data were compiled based on the core items only. For all end-of-course tests, students' percents proficient pro·fi·cient  
Having or marked by an advanced degree of competence, as in an art, vocation, profession, or branch of learning.

An expert; an adept.
 were used for comparison. Final data analyses were generated using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS A statistical package from SPSS, Inc., Chicago ( that runs on PCs, most mainframes and minis and is used extensively in marketing research. It provides over 50 statistical processes, including regression analysis, correlation and analysis of variance. ) version 6.1. Statistical analyses included descriptive statistics descriptive statistics

see statistics.
 and inferential statistics inferential statistics

see inferential statistics.
. (See tables 1 and 2.)
Table 1
Number of Students Tested Per Subjects and Per Method of Scheduling

Algebra 1        Biology       English 1     U.S. History

Trad   Block   Trad   Block   Trad   Block   Trad   Block
N      N       N      N       N      N       N      N
412    415     1029   615     663    603     602    420

Trad imp. 1.

imp. os> of Tread.

Noun 1. trad - traditional jazz as revived in the 1950s
jazz - a genre of popular music that originated in New Orleans around 1900 and developed through increasingly complex styles
  = Traditional Schedule

Block = Block Schedule

N = Number of Students

Table 2 Mean Proficiency pro·fi·cien·cy  
n. pl. pro·fi·cien·cies
The state or quality of being proficient; competence.

Noun 1. proficiency - the quality of having great facility and competence
 Scores for Traditional and Block Schedules on End-of-Course Test
Subject        Schedule      Mean (M)   Standard Dev. (SD)

Algebra I      Traditional     54.20          26.29
               Block           48.22          26.89

Biology        Traditional     39.00          32.43
               Block           34.78          22.66

English I      Traditional     47.47          32.07
               Block           38.67          26.73

U.S. History   Traditional     47.46          26.92
               Block           39.68          36.19

An independent t-test was used to test each of the four null hypotheses to determine if a statistical difference existed between the traditional mean and block mean for each of the four subjects.


The null hypothesis null hypothesis,
n theoretical assumption that a given therapy will have results not statistically different from another treatment.

null hypothesis,
 stated that no significant statistical difference would exist between traditional mean scores and block mean scores. Once the 1-test was performed, a significant statistical difference was found at the .05 level of significance, (L=3.23, p .05). Therefore, the null hypothesis was rejected.


The null hypothesis stated that no significant statistical difference would exist between traditional mean scores and block mean scores. However, when the t-test was performed, a statistical difference was found at the .05 level of significance, (t=2.73, p [is less than] .05). Likewise, the null hypothesis which suggested no difference was rejected.


The null hypothesis stated that no significant statistical difference would exist between the traditional mean scores and block mean scores. Once again, the t--test showed that a statistical difference existed at the .05 level of significance, (t-=5.32, p [is less than] .05). The null hypothesis was rejected.


The null hypothesis stated that no significant statistical difference would exist between traditional mean scores and block mean scores. After applying the t-test, a significant statistical difference was found at the .05 level of significance, (t+4.42, p [is less than] .05). Again, the null hypothesis stating no difference was rejected.

The statistical analyses on the four null hypotheses showed that in each case, the mean score for the traditional schedule was consistently higher than the mean scores for the block schedule. Based upon the results of the t-test and its application, traditionally scheduled students rather than the anticipated block scheduled students demonstrated significantly higher scores for Algebra 1, Biology, English 1, and U. S. History.

Summary and Discussion of Results

This research compared the academic achievement of students who received instruction on the traditional schedule to the academic achievement of students who received instruction on the block schedule. Assessment instruments used to collect data for comparison were the North Carolina End of-Course tests. Two years (1992-93, 199394) of "traditional" data were used to represent achievement on traditional schedule. School years 1994-95 (two semesters) and 1995-96 (one semester) were used to represent achievement on the block schedule. A total of 2,706 students' scores was available for the traditional schedule and a total of 2,053 students' scores for the block schedule.

The mean scores on the traditional schedule were consistently higher than the mean scores on the block schedule which came as a surprise. Algebra 1, Biology, English I and U. S. History each had higher traditional mean scores than the block mean scores and revealed significant statistical differences in favor of the traditional schedule.

The results of the study did not support Carroll's findings as expected. Carroll (1994) found support for block scheduling using the students' final classroom grades for comparison. Carroll's findings may be due to the fact that classroom grades were used rather than standardized tests A standardized test is a test administered and scored in a standard manner. The tests are designed in such a way that the "questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent" [1]  scores and one questions if classroom grades are more closely related to class curriculum than to class schedules.

Another issue may be the length of time the students were on the block schedule. Shortt and Thayer (1997) indicated that the first year on the block schedule is very demanding and many teachers do not cover as much content as they did on the traditional schedule. Since the end-of course tests are designed to measure what has been learned throughout the entire course, perhaps more content was assessed than is normally assessed with teacher-made tests. Therefore, the time factor could have contributed to the traditional mean scores being higher than the block mean scores.

The findings of this research support some of the findings of Skrobarcek, et al. (1997). Skrobarcek and his colleagues reported that for a group of high school students taking Algebra 1, the block classes consistently had a higher failure rate than the traditional classes.

This study suggests that instructional programs that meet the needs of students and prepare them for the changing technological society they will face is still needed and advocates additional research in the area. Several innovations are being made and should be continued under close scrutiny. However, wholesale block scheduling alone, may not be the most productive long-term solution to inadequate academic achievement for high school students. Educators must continue to study research conducted in the area and conduct research themselves in an attempt to design better scheduling alternatives that more adequately meet the needs of students and teachers since block scheduling does not meet all the desired outcomes.


Barth, R. S. (1991). Restructuring schools: Some questions for teachers and principals. Phi Delta Kappan, 73(2), 123-128.

Canady, R. L. & Rettig, M. D. (1993), Unlocking the lockstep lock·step  
1. A way of marching in which the marchers follow each other as closely as possible.

2. A standardized procedure that is closely, often mindlessly followed.

Noun 1.
 high school schedule. Phi Delta Kappan, 75(4), 310-314.

Canady, R. L. & Rettig, M. D. (1995), Block scheduling: A catalyst for change i high schools. Princeton, NJ: Eye on Education.

Carroll, J. M. (1994). Organizing time to support learning. Author of Copernican Plan says `Macro scheduling' brings time-tested benefits to student growth. The School Administrator, 51(3), 26-33.

Carroll, J. M. (1994). The Copernican Plan evaluated: The evolution of a revolution. Phi Delta Kappan, 76(2), 105-113.

Conant, J. B. (1959). The American high American High School may refer to the following:
  • American High School (Fremont, California), the school in Fremont, California
  • American High School (Miami-Dade County, Florida), the school in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida
 school today. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: McGraw-Hill.

Cushman, K. (1989). Schedules that bind. American Educator, 13(2), 35-39.

Edwards, J. (1991). To teach responsibility, bring back the Dalton Plan Dalton plan: see progressive education. . Phi Delta Kappan, 72(5), 398-401.

Gall, M. D., Borg, W. R. & Gall, J. P. (1996). Educational research: An introduction. (6th ed.). White Plains, NY: Longman.

National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983). A nation at risk. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office.

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, (1995). 1995 State Report Card. Raleigh, NC: Division of Research and Testing Services.

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. (1992). Secondary Education in North Carolina: A Report of Student Participation and Performance in End-of-Course Testing Raleigh, NC: Testing Section/Division of Accountability Services.

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. (1987). Technical Characteristics of Algebra Tests Raleigh, NC:Division of Research and Testing Services.

Norris, M. (1990). The SPSS Guide to Data Analysis for Release, (4th ed.). Chicago, .IL.:SPSS, Inc.

Schoenstein, R. (1994). Making block schedule work. Virginian Journal of Education, 88(4), 612.

Shortt, T. & Thayer, Y. V. (1997). A vision for block scheduling: Where are we now? Where are we going? NASSP NASSP National Association of Secondary School Principals
NASSP North American Society of Social Philosophy
 Bulletin, 81 (595), 1-15.

Sizer, T. R. (1992), Horace's school: Redesigning the American high school. Boston, MA.: Houghton Mifflin Houghton Mifflin Company is a leading educational publisher in the United States. The company's headquarters is located in Boston's Back Bay. It publishes textbooks, instructional technology materials, assessments, reference works, and fiction and non-fiction for both young readers .

Skrobarcek, S., Chang, M., Thompson, C., Johnson, J., Atteberry, R., Westbrook, R., & Manus MANUS. Anciently signified the person taking an oath as a compurgator. The use of this word probably came from the party laying his hand on the New Testament. Manus signifies, among the civilians, power, and is frequently used as synonymous with potestas. Lec. El. Dr. Rom. Sec. 94. , A. (1997). Collaborating for instructional improvement. Analyzing the academic impact of a block schedule plan. NASSP Bulleatin, 81(589), 104-111.

Dr. William W. Lawrence, Professor of Education, North Carolina Central University History
NCCU was chartered in 1909 and opened in 1910 as the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua under the leadership of President James E. Shepard.
. Dr. Danny D. McPherson, Principal, West Columbus High School Columbus High School can refer to a number of secondary schools.
  • Columbus High School, a liberal arts magnet school in Columbus, Georgia
  • Columbus High School, a Catholic secondary school in Waterloo, Iowa
, Cerro Gordo, North Carolina Cerro Gordo is a town in Columbus County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 244 at the 2000 census. According to local legend, the town received its name from a local dignitary, who, upon seeing a fight break out at the dedication of the first railroad depot, .

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. William W. Lawrence, Professor of Education, North Carolina Central University, 1801 Fayetteville Street, Durham, North Carolina Durham is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the county seat of Durham CountyGR6 and is the fourth-largest city in the state by population. , 27707.
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Author:McPherson, Danny D.
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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