While few would argue that building a master schedule for high school is stressful and demanding, this article will examine the types of schedules that have been found beneficial to high school students. What are some types of high school schedules that work? Having student input is a way for administrators to identify how effective a schedule may be. For example, in New Jersey, students at Glen Rock High School were surveyed on schedule preferences. Students reported that their favorite change to their schedule involved having shorter periods. Understanding the benefits of different types of schedules is also important to consider. Educational researchers have been examining the types of daily/weekly schedules of high school students and the influence the schedule can have on a student’s course load and stress levels.
Types of High School Schedules
Enriching Students lists several types of high school schedules. The six types of schedules include (a) traditional period scheduling, (b) the 4X4 block schedule, (c) the A/B block schedule, (d) multiple flex periods block schedule, (e) rotating block schedule, and (f) rotating drop schedule. Each of these schedules offers strengths and limitations, and to understand the benefits, administrators need to understand their school culture and community. The majority of students in a private or religious school may have different needs from those in a Title 1 inner-city school.
Traditional Period Scheduling
The traditional period schedule is one that many readers may be familiar with. A traditional schedule usually has seven periods of learning scheduled to occur within one school day. While many schools have drifted away from the traditional period scheduling of the past, students in public high schools would still benefit from this type of schedule. For example, one English teacher shared how a traditional seven-period schedule would allow her to build relationships with her students by seeing them every day of the week. Other benefits to a traditional schedule include (a) easier scheduling for administration and students, (b) students who miss time due to illness or other absences having an easier time catching up, and (c) students may be more engaged in the classroom based on established student-teacher relationships.
4×4 Block Schedule
Similar to a college schedule using semesters, a 4X4 block schedule allows students to sign up for eight classes. These classes are then divided into two semesters, with four classes at the beginning of the year and the other four at the end of the year. Each class lasts approximately 90 minutes. While some teachers feel there is not enough time to cover the necessary content in one semester, there are benefits to a 4×4 block schedule. The benefits are that students are only focused on four subjects at a time, and students will have earned credit for eight courses at the end of each school year, compared to only seven in a traditional schedule.
A/B Block Schedule
Similar to the 4×4 block model, in the A/B block schedule, students will have one set of three to four classes on Day A and a different set of three to four classes on Day B. There are no semesters, so students will follow the A/B rotations throughout the school year. Similar to the 4×4 block schedule, the A/B classes last approximately 90 minutes. The benefit of an A/B schedule is that students can have more time in their classes and have more options in selecting classes.
Multiple Periods Block Schedule
Using a block schedule as a basis, many schools have begun adding in multiple flex periods. Teachers and students benefit from this period of flexibility that is added to each day. So, students may have a 40-minute flex period or two 20-minute flex periods each day. Flex periods may also include a lunch period that can be used as a working lunchtime. These flex times can be used for teacher conferences, meetings with counselors, or study hall. The benefits are that students have some flexibility in their schedules.
Rotating Block Schedule
A rotating block schedule could be described as an A/B/C rotating schedule. A tricky schedule for implementing, and schools that use this schedule usually have six periods. One period each day may be a flex period. The other periods are classes that rotate on an A/B/C schedule. So, students may have a total of eight classes but only attend five classes each day. The benefits to this schedule are that students can still have a variety of classes and also have a flex period to seek out help from teachers or use it as a study hall.
Rotating Drop Schedule
This schedule is probably the most unique of all student schedules. The rotating drop schedule is a combination of the rotating block schedule and the multiple flex periods schedule. Students have eight periods and eight classes; however, each day (based on a rotating schedule) drops two periods. So, for example, on Day A, a student may only report to Periods 1 through 6, dropping Periods 7 and 8. Furthermore, on Day B, the same student may have Periods 1 to 4 and 7 and 8, dropping Periods 5 and 6. A flex period is also factored into this type of schedule. For students that are good at managing time and schedules, this variation would offer a variety of class options.
For students that have issues with attendance or illness, a more traditional schedule is appropriate. For students that thrive from establishing relationships, having a more consistent schedule (traditional or A/B block) would be beneficial. While there are benefits to the various schedules presented, schools need to consider the overall needs of their students based on culture and community. Adding flexibility to the schedule has also been a popular modification in many high schools nationally. Flexible periods can be added more easily to non-tradition schedules. Finding time within the day to squeeze in every requirement is challenging. Students are obligated to have a certain number of passing credits to graduate, and different schedules support different pathways to meeting those goals. Overall, understanding the benefits of different types of schedules is important for administrators, parents, and students to consider.