The Block Schedule at St. Mary’s High School
Beginning in 1994 St. Mary’s High School adopted a block schedule format of study that continues to spell success for college-bound students. Since 1994 various forms of the block schedule have been implemented at schools across the country. St. Mary’s alumni continue to praise our particular block format and to rank it alongside quality teaching as the most significant factor contributing to success in college.
Essential characteristics of the block schedule at St. Mary’s include:
- 4 X 85 minute classes meeting every day
- courses lasting a single semester
- 32 credits earned following four years of study
Students at St. Mary’s experience a host of benefits under this particular system. The block schedule creates periods of study similar to those taken up in most colleges, allowing St. Mary’s students to get an early advantage sharpening the time management and study skills necessary for a successful transition to college.
Pedagogically a longer class period creates a student-centered classroom in which teachers are free to address a variety of student learning styles with a variety of teaching techniques. A typical day at St. Mary’s includes extended laboratory time, structured writing and revision, guided internet research, and dynamic interaction during student presentations and discussions. Study at St. Mary’s takes on greater depth and focus under the block schedule, emphasizing not only the mastery of facts but the essential honing of critical and analytical thinking skills.
A key component to the block schedule at St. Mary’s High School is the requirement of thirty-two credits following four years of study. Eight of these are elective credits earned mostly in the junior and senior years. This innovative elective system encourages students to expand and specialize their studies in a chosen area, including the nine Advanced Placement courses available for 2010-2011. A student interested in medicine might select AP Biology, Zoology, and Honors Anatomy and Physiology. A student contemplating a college major in Liberal Studies or English and Drama may take Honors Interdisciplinary Seminar, Honors Shakespeare, Cinematic Art, and AP Literature and Composition. Similarly, the future engineer might prepare by taking Honors Precalculus with Trigonometry, AP Calculus, and AP Physics. Foreign Language specialists are able to advance by the senior year to French V, Latin V, and AP Spanish, or to take two years of two different languages.
These are just a few of the many advantages made possible by the block schedule at St. Mary’s. In 1994 we also discovered that under the block system teachers would teach up to half the number of students per semester, allowing the academic relationship between teacher and student to deepen and flourish. Ultimately the block system of study has given us significantly greater opportunity in the formation young men and women who will become life-long learners.