Is block scheduling right for you?
Many schools address the need for additional time for AP classes through innovative scheduling practices. Block scheduling, for example, involves lengthening—usually doubling—the class time devoted to a course in a day. There are a number of variations of block scheduling, including:
- Single-semester blocks, which compress courses formerly taught over an entire year into a single semester
- Alternate-day blocks (AB block schedules), which provide double-period classes on alternate days over a school year
- Mixed schedules, which allow for some courses on block schedules (single semester or alternate day) and some traditional class periods taught over the school year
- Other variations that divide the school year into trimesters or quarters, with some courses taught for one or more quarters or trimesters of the year. Some schools have increased the contact hours for certain courses by teaching double-period classes for one semester and traditional-length classes in the second semester.
Schools should evaluate the specific needs and characteristics of their own AP programs before deciding to implement a block-scheduling system. You may also choose to consult with other AP schools with successful block schedules to gain a first-hand perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of such systems.
A block-scheduling success story: Martin County High School
"We have used semester blocking to expand our program. Our AP Biology, Chemistry, and Physics B courses are paired with Biology II, Chemistry II, and honors Physics to provide time for teachers to do in-depth labs required for success in AP science exams. Calculus is also yearlong (Calculus with Calculus AB, Calculus AB with Calculus BC). Block also allows students to ‘catch up' in math, so we now have five sections of calculus, where we barely had one before block.
AP English Language is paired with AP U.S. History and the courses are taught using a yearlong alternating-day format. AP English Literature and AP Economics (Macro) and AP U.S. Government and Politics are similarly paired. We have seen growth in the program greater than growth in population."
Martin County High School