Hickman starting the year strong with block scheduling

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 | 6:34 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — It took 18 months of preparation, but Hickman High School Principal Tracey Conrad said the transition to a block schedule is making everybody happy. 

"The students I've talked to have really liked it," Conrad said. "I think it's much less hectic for them."

Hickman has had a traditional schedule for the past 85 years, but teachers and administrators decided to switch to a block schedule last year. The decision was made to give students more time with teachers, allow them to earn more credits each year and have more time for resources such as the Columbia Area Career Center.

In the block schedule format, students have fewer classes each day, but the time is extended to 90 minutes instead of the traditional 45- or 50-minute periods. With fewer classes in the day, less time is lost to students moving from room to room.

"Our passing periods are longer, which gives our legs a nice break," said Hickman senior Emily Rackers.

Rackers is the online editor of Hickman's Purple and Gold student newspaper. She said a downside to the new schedule is that the lunch period was shortened to 22 minutes and that students are having trouble adjusting to it. However, she said she likes having more time to do homework.

"The class periods were difficult to get used to at first but now the hour and a half segment is no big deal," she said. "I'm not a fan of the 22-minute lunches, but we're all settling into a good rhythm."

Conrad said teachers are embracing the change and haven't reported any major problems.

"I feel like we have the best teachers in the state, in Columbia, Missouri, and so they're all over it," Conrad said. "They're using their time effectively, and they've really made this transition very smoothly."

Some elective classes, such as foreign languages, are offered daily so students have continuous practice. Critics of block scheduling say that mathematics should also be taught daily, but Conrad said the math teachers at Hickman came up with a different tactic. To keep the extended class period, they offer a math lab class for students on days their traditional math class doesn't meet.

Rock Bridge High School has operated on a block schedule since the 1990s. Principal Mark Maus said that before he became an administrator, he taught math in both traditional and block schedules but prefers the block format.

"I feel like I was able to help more students," Maus said. "There were times when I was giving a lesson in the more traditional schedule that I was really rushed and that I didn't have time for students to practice and be able to move around the classroom and give that feedback."

The Rock Bridge schedule is slightly different than Hickman model. They tried the model with daily classes but eliminated it after the first year.

Conrad said a task force of teachers from different departments will evaluate the change throughout the year and discuss whether adjustments need to be made.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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