A longitudinal study of block scheduling versus traditional scheduling in Mississippi schools: Utilizing the Mississippi student assessment system and administrators' perceptions

Linda Oettiker Smith

Abstract

Accountability has become increasingly important in an era of financial stress coupled with the demand for continuous improvement, demonstrated through state mandated tests. In order to address the accountability issues associated with No Child Left Behind and in all probability the future Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it is critical to have current data regarding issues related to student achievement. For over a decade, school leaders have been encouraged to examine instructional time, or the use of scheduling formats, such as block scheduling. This study was intended to provide school and district-level administrators with additional data relevant to the effect of block scheduling on the achievement of middle and high school students on state mandated tests. In addition, the study provided insight into the perceptions of building administrators who have worked under block scheduling. A review of the literature suggested that few longitudinal studies of a statewide nature have been conducted. In addition, the review uncovered limited studies of middle school test data related to achievement and schedule type. The study utilized archival data from all four Mississippi Subject Area Exams, as well as the Mississippi Curriculum Tests for Language Arts and Math to examine the difference in achievement between students receiving instruction within any form of block and those receiving instruction within a traditional schedule. A five-year period was utilized. Data selected for use was obtained from lists provided by the Mississippi Department of Education. A survey of school administrators, whose schools had been identified as operating under a form of block for some time was also conducted in order to obtain perceptions relevant to block and achievement on the state-wide tests, and to the implementation and development of block. The statistical analysis consisted of a series of mixed ANOVAS. Results indicated that at the middle school level block was significant only on the scores for 7th grade math. At the high school level, the effects of block were significant for Algebra and Biology. Analysis supported three of five hypotheses. School administrators somewhat agreed that block increased achievement on state-wide assessments. These results both supported and contradicted previous studies.