Teachers consider alternatives to block schedule



Social science teacher Mark Andreatta works with a student. Andreatta is part of a group of teachers discussing the possibility of alternatives to the 4×4 block schedule.


Roseville Joint Union High School District may move away from the current 4×4 block schedule used by all of its comprehensive school sites. 

A group of teachers around the district is discussing alternatives to the current block system, led by Granite Bay High School teacher Brandon Dell’Orto.

In the 1995-1996 school year, schools in the district began to implement the current “4×4” block system, which was a teacher-led change. This replaced the traditional six-period system, where each student had six classes for every day of the school year. Roseville High School, however, did not make this change until nearly a decade after the other schools switched to the 4×4. Under the new system, each student has a year of eight classes that are divided into four courses a semester.      

While many teachers see the strengths in the current system, this group is interested in adjusting it in order to better fit student needs.

As of now, the group is debating the pros and cons of the current system and its possible alternatives. 

One such negative point involves the time between classes: as students take classes such as AP in the fall semester, they might be less prepared when the AP test comes in the spring, due to the time that passed after the end of the class. According to AP Psychology teacher Mark Andreatta, this is not indicative of any system that is seen beyond high school.

“How many times in college are students asked to take a course and then wait five months to take the final exam for it?,” Andreatta said. “And that’s basically what we’re doing for the students that are just taking the single fall AP courses, then the first part of May they start taking the exams, so that’s a difficult thing there.”

Math teacher Chaundra Wood debates the impact of other schedule systems, such as the one used by Rocklin Unified School District, on courses like math. Under RJUHSD’s system, students can take two math classes a year. This would be impractical under other systems.

There is also a social factor in dividing full classes to half of the year. As a student begins to be comfortable with a teacher, the semester ends, and the student would have a new set of teachers to get to know.

Classes have to move at a faster pace on the 4×4 block as well, which does not favor students who need more time to absorb the content of the classes.

“The 4×4 is an incredible schedule for kids who are already kinda ready for college and on the college track, because it’s what college does,” Dell’Orto said. “So what we decided to do was start looking at the possibility of taking our schedule and just finding a way that it’s not so fast-paced for all of our kids.”

On the other hand, the 4×4 block system allows students to complete more classes and pathways, with an additional two classes every year compared to a year-round, six course system.

One alternative could be a system like Rocklin Unified School District’s – similar to A/B day block classes for the entire schedule, students take eight courses year-round and four courses a day, alternating every other day.

However, this system would make it impractical to take two math courses or foreign languages courses in a year.  According to math teacher Chaudra Wood, under the current block schedule, students are able to “double up” with long pathways such as math and finish classes with efficiency that isn’t possible in a traditional system.

“If they start in IM1, then they really can’t take all the way to calculus unless they double up in classes,” Wood said. “And if we were on a regular schedule, that means they’d have to take two in the same year at the same time, and that’s a challenge.”

According to superintendent Denise Herrmann, heavy teacher involvement is needed if the changes to the block system would ever occur, due to the contract that requires teacher approval of any change to the daily schedule.

 “Well I’m open to [the change],” Herrmann said. “I would support the teachers in that work, but I think this is definitely something that needs significant teacher leadership for it to go well.”

According to Herrmann, with no recent development or breakthroughs in the current discussion, there would be no major changes to the schedule until the start time adjustment in accordance with Senate Bill 328 goes into effect by 2022.

Along with the mandated change to the start time, a concurrent shift of the block system is a possibility, but for now it is open for discussion.

“We’re probably approaching first base on this,” Andreatta said. “And we still have a long way to go to get around all the way to the home plate to see what actually happens, but at least we’re heading towards first base.”