Delimitations and Definitions Theoretical Background Term Paper

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Therefore, the most different variable in the study is the change in treatment, i.e. The doubling of class time.

The following definitions are provided to ensure uniformity and understanding throughout this study. All definitions, not otherwise noted, have been developed by the researcher:

AYP -- Adequate Yearly Progress refers to the state-stipulated percentage of students by subject (math/English) by demographic (race/socio-economic strata) that must pass the HSPA. Schools that do not meet or surpass AYP are subject to sanctions. These may differ by state.

Class time -- The prescribed time during which a single class is conducted, i.e. one period. In this case, one period prior to the doubling of class time is initially equal to 42 minutes and subsequently equal to 43 minutes.

Doubling of class time -- Increasing class time from 42 minutes to 84 minutes plus the consumed passing time of 4 minutes for a total of 88 minutes, subsequently increased to 90 minutes due to minor schedule changes.

GEPA -- The Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment required by the New Jersey Department of Education in fulfillment of the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

HSPA -- The High School Proficiency Assessment is the New Jersey state mandated test which is required to be administered to all first-year 11th graders in fulfillment of the requirements established by NCLB.

Low-Achievers -- Students assigned to lower level math and English classes as a result of entering high school without having passed the GEPA.

NCLB -- The No Child Left Behind Act which is the common name for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 2002 resulting in widespread changes in accountability for schools and districts throughout the United States.

Non-low-achievers -- Students assigned to higher level math and English classes as a result of entering high school having successfully passed the GEPA.

Public Regional High School -- A school consisting of grades nine through 12 serving students hailing from a formal consortium of communities that support and fund the school through their tax dollars.

2. Review of the Literature

Theoretical Background

Like all resources, the time teachers have available to deliver high quality educational services to their students is, by definition, scarce and must be used to its maximum advantage. Before the turn of the 20th century, high schools in the United States were characterized by a significant amount of flexibility in terms of their class scheduling (Hackmann, 2004). Prior to 1900, a variety of formats were used to teach various subjects, with different courses using different number of days per week in which instruction was delivered; however, by 1909, in an attempt to standardize educational delivery among American high schools, the College Entrance Examination Board implemented the Carnegie unit, an approach that mandated that a total of 120 hours of classroom instruction was to provided in 40- to 60-minute classes throughout an academic year that was comprised of 36 to 40 weeks (McNeil, 1996). This trend to standardize the educational format was due in large part to significant influences from the business world where scientific management as characterized by Taylorism-like approaches that placed a high value of efficiency, mass production, and uniformity in the workplace (Hackmann). It was during this period in American history that the daily- period schedule was created as an organizational response to the problem of educating increasingly large numbers of students efficiently (Hackmann, 2004).

Scheduling regimens continued along these lines for the first half of the 20th century, but following the end of World War II, modular scheduling became increasingly popular and by the late 1950s was the scheduling model of choice for some of the nation's secondary schools (Hackmann). According to Hackmann, "Instructional responsiveness was the hallmark of this model, since class sessions could be structured according to the number of modules (10, 15, or 20 minutes in length) needed to teach a concept" (p. 697). The modular approach also provided a variety of course formats that had classes meeting on a daily basis or staggered throughout the week with different class lengths (Trump & Baynham, 1961). The popularity of modular scheduling reached its zenith by the early 1970s, but this alternative schedule approach was still only represented in about 15% of the nation's high schools; differences in the length of class sessions, though, also involved some unexpected problems including the fact that a number of students who were between classes remained unsupervised during different parts of school day, resulting in increased disciplinary problems (Hackmann). As a result, while flexible modular scheduling is still used in a few secondary schools in the U.S., by the late 1970s, the approach fell into disfavor and the majority of the nation's schools reverted to a daily-period scheduling approach (Hackmann).

The impetus for change gained steam during the 1980s, though, and by the late 1980s, advocates of alternative scheduling models cited the fundamental problems associated with the daily-period models, maintaining that these models simply supported teachers relying on the use of lectures as a primary educational tool; other drawbacks of the daily-period model include an excessive fragmentation of the school day, inhibition of in-depth exploration, and unnecessary constraints to the meaningful integration of curricular offerings (Hackmann).

The 1984 report, A Nation At Risk, (National Commission on Excellence in Education) concluded, among other things, that school administrators and teachers should allocate classroom time more efficiently. In its 1994 report Prisoners of Time the National Education Commission on Time and Learning further reinforced the element of "time" as a potential avenue for increasing learning: "No community in the United States is so small or impoverished that it cannot benefit from an examination of how it uses time-if not in extending the day or year, at least in re-configuring how it uses the time now available ("Develop local action plans to transform schools," 1994). According to Weller and Mcleskey (2000), "In response to concerns regarding the traditional six-period high school schedule, several alternative scheduling patterns have emerged under the general rubric of 'block scheduling.' Whether called the 'intensive block,' '4x4 block,' 'A/B plan,' or 'modified block,' all the plans for block scheduling reduce the number of classes offered during the school day, thus increasing the length of time (as long as 90 minutes or more) that is available for instruction in a given subject area" (p. 209). According to Queen, Algozzine and Eaddy (1996), the 4x4 block scheduling model assumes its name from the fact that students can enroll in four classes each semester, rather than the traditional six, with more intensive periods of study required for each of the four courses. "The concept was pleasing to parents and students because students could take four courses each semester," Queen and his associates note, "thus the name 4 x 4, for a possible total of thirty-two credits over four years. That would allow students to take more elective courses and perhaps more advanced courses in such areas as science and foreign languages" (p. 249). Likewise, Hackmann (2004) reports that during the past 2 decades or so, several different block formats have been used in the nation's secondary schools, including combination approaches that use both block and daily-period features. According to Hackmann, "Two approaches have emerged as the most common: the 4x4 semester plan, in which students complete four classes each semester for a total of eight courses per year, and the eight-block alternating-day model, in which students receive instruction in one- half of their courses on alternate days and continue in these courses throughout the year" (p. 697).

Today, block scheduling represents one of the most popular alternatives to traditional scheduling models (Danielson, 2002). While the term "block scheduling" is typically used to describe any alternative arrangement of time within the daily school schedule, there are some differences between the models used in many middle schools and high schools in the United States (Wraga, Hlebowitsh & Tanner, 2000). A number of middle schools, for example, emphasize flexibility in scheduling by providing a large block of time wherein teams of teachers are able to provide instruction to a fixed group of students for academic core subjects as well as their elective and exploratory courses (Wraga et al.).

By contrast, the 4x4 block schedule model used at the high school level in North America is more intensive in design as shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Representative 4x4 Block Schedule

Period

Semester 1

Semester 2

1

Course A

Course E

2

Course B

Course F

3

Course C

Course G

4

Course D

Course H

Source: Wraga et al., p. 337

The 4 x 4 block scheduling model has attracted a number of proponents who point to its numerous benefits over traditional class scheduling regimens. In this regard, Queen, Algozzine and Eaddy (1996) emphasize that, "The 4x4 block is an excellent alternative scheduling model for the modern secondary school, especially for social studies classes. At a time when high-school teachers are in a constant struggle to increase academic achievement…[continue]

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