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Extra Credit: Issues With Block Scheduling?

Dear Extra Credit:

For the past two years, my son attended Herndon High School part time for advanced math classes, and we found the ABABA BABAB schedule confusing. We had to frequently check the master schedule, as a given day of the week could be a "red" day or a "black" day.
My son is a freshman at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Mondays are "anchor days," when the students attend all of their classes. Then they have an ABAB schedule for the rest of the week. That means that every day of the week has a consistent schedule. In addition, it allows for part-time teachers, since teachers can schedule to be at the school Monday, Tuesday and Thursday or Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On a more typical block schedule, part-time teachers would have to be available every day of the week, which does not seem practical.
I'm curious as to why all schools do not adopt this type of a block schedule, as I do not see a single downside to this solution.
Laurie Meyers, Herndon

An intriguing suggestion. Anyone else have trouble with the way block schedules are done?

-- Jay Mathews

Please send your thoughts and questions, along with your name, e-mail or postal address and telephone number, to Extra Credit, The Washington Post, 526 King St., Suite 515, Alexandria, Va. 22314. Or e-mail

By Washington Post Editors  | April 2, 2009; 2:39 PM ET
Categories:  Extra Credit  
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I think any school where you have to refer to a master schedule to see which schedule you're using is troubling.

My son's junior high also uses Monday as an anchor day, then the same classes on Tues./Thurs. and Weds./Fri., which makes a great deal of sense.

Posted by: cab91 | April 2, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

If the ABABA BABAB thing is too complicated for use at TJ, then maybe the other schools should take the hint.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | April 2, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Initially it sounds like a good plan, except for those teacher who go to different schools on different days. A day school 1, B day school 2. However, if you had an anchor day, the teacher would have to be at both school 1 AND 2 on Mondays, not sure if the classes line up so they could actually be there when they had to be.

Just a thought.

Posted by: pamsdds | April 3, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Anchor/block and non-anchor/block both have benefits.

Anchor/block schedules give educators a chance to preview weekly lessons on Monday to prepare students for the remainder of the week.

Non-anchor/block schedules give students more leeway to make their own decisions about when to do their homework, a skill that will definitely translate well into college.

My concern from this letter is that the high school student and mother have difficulty determining which color day is happening in the morning, despite paperwork that was sent home to allegedly alleviate that problem. Perhaps school websites need to prominently display an easy-to-use calendar page which students/parents would be expected to check on a daily/weekly basis.

Posted by: adushok | April 3, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

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