The Middle School Block Schedule
MPA’s Middle School is specifically designed to serve students at an important time in their development. The Middle School’s alternating day block schedule, completely unique to MPA, does just that, providing an opportunity for students to dive deeply into their core subjects without piling on the homework or sacrificing valuable elective and specialist classes.
Students and teachers alike appreciate the 75-minute class periods and “A” and “B” day rotation that make up the Middle School’s block schedule. Whether it's welcoming a guest speaker to an English class, completing a full Geology lab in a science class, or programming micro-bots in the Makerspace, 75-minute blocks allow for the type of hands on, experiential education that makes learning joyful and meaningful.
How it works
The block schedule in the Middle School consists of “A” and “B” days, and students have 75-minute core classes on each day. These classes include math, science, social studies, English, physical education, and French or Spanish. Interspersed amongst these core classes are 40-minute periods for elective and specialist classes like choir, visual arts, theatre, instrumental music, seminar, health, or advisory, plus 55 minutes for the lunch and recess period. Over the course of two days, the Middle School block schedule allows students to visit all 10-12 instructional blocks.
Rigor with Purpose
The alternating A and B day schedule means students have a full day between classes to process what they learn, leading to deeper understanding and higher acquisition of knowledge. It also means there’s a more manageable homework load each day, which helps busy middle school students have family time and free time to pursue other passions without sacrificing academic rigor. Additionally, students may use their extra day between classes to get their questions answered and take advantage of this time to meet 1:1 with teachers to get assistance as needed.
What the experts say
The Middle School’s block schedule is based on academic research and best practices from industry experts. Christopher Tienken, professor of education at Seton Hall University and Sharon Sherman, dean of the School of Education at Rider University, have both studied the block scheduling approach. They note that the strengths of a block schedule include the ability to deliver more engaging, student-centered activities, implement cooperative learning strategies, and provide deeper learning experiences.
“When speaking with students, we found that the vast majority liked it better overall because there are more options and opportunities to experience more courses and deeper learning in block schedules compared to the traditional 6 or 7 period day,” says Tienken.
Tienken and Sherman note that many middle schools are going to the block because of the benefit of deeper teaching, and even many university courses have gone to a block schedule or increased the length of their class times while decreasing the frequency.
“The block allows for more in-depth teaching through the form of extended activities and hands-on experiences. And, in the A/B schedule, students report that they like not having the same class every day. It gives them a break and keeps things fresh. It allows them more time to study and more time to internalize information,” adds Sherman.
Additionally, a study at the University of North Carolina published a study that compared achievement scores in middle schools as they transitioned from traditional seven-period/day schedules to block schedules. They found that scores demonstrated a significant increase after introducing block scheduling. The researchers also noted that block schedules reduced student stress caused by an abundance of academic material, increased student attendance, and decreased disciplinary referrals. Teachers had more opportunities to implement creative teaching strategies to meet the needs of students and had more one-to-one time for interactions with students.
What the MPA Community says
“MPA’s Middle School schedule has a thoughtful balance of long and short blocks that run over the course of a two-day (A/B) schedule. In the early adolescent years, it is important that the growing physical body is offered opportunity to move and grow right along the academic mind. The long blocks (75 minutes each) and shorter blocks (40) minutes, allow for much more movement and a shift in learning spaces throughout the school day. Additionally, the longer blocks allow for increased levels of engagement in multiple ways that meet the needs of a diverse classroom of learners. The alternating A/B schedule allows for a longer reflection and processing period toward understanding and also a more manageable homework load each day,” shares Dr. Jenn Milam, Middle School director.
The students appreciate it too. “I like it because it means that the more challenging classes are spread out, which also means that the homework is more spread out and I can go to soccer or basketball after school. It's also nice too because you get more variety of classes each day,” says Evan W., MPA eighth grader.
|Fifth Grade Sample Schedule||A Day Classes||B Day Classes|
|8-9:15||French I||Physical Education|
|11:20-12:10||Lunch and Recess||Lunch and Recess|
|Eighth Grade Sample Schedule||A Day Classes||B Day Classes|
|8-9:15||Social Studies||Spanish II|
|11:20-12:10||Lunch and Recess||Lunch and Recess|