Classes separate for 2022-23 school year

Nearly all blocked classes have been seperated for the upcoming 2022-23 school year.

May 27, 2022

All blocked classes will be separated to independent sections by the end of 2023.

In the past, blocked classes have been a staple in the AP world, with many of the mainstay AP’s such as Honors English 10 and AP European History being blocked for roughly a decade.  

However, for the upcoming school year all classes have been unblocked except for Geography & World Cultures and Pre-AP English 9 – which will run independent sections by the 2023/2024 school year. This change has been made for the purpose of freeing up scheduling space. 

“When classes are blocked, you need to have them in pairs,” assistant principal Matt Pipitone said. “Two periods of blocked AP US History, for example, represents four sections.”

The scheduling difficulties are found mostly in the rigidness of the blocking method – teachers who teach on the block have to have the same prep period, the blocks have to be during the same period, and the course count has to be in pairs. 

These kinds of difficulties currently plague the master schedule and make scheduling with so many restrictions difficult, however, for years these have been overcome leading to some confusion as to why it can not simply be overcome for the upcoming school year. 

“I appreciate that there are obstacles in compiling a master schedule, it’s an elaborate game of tetris, there are many considerations to reflect on in the allocation of our schools resources,” Mowrer said. “But those obstacles were surmountable for twelve years – for some reason these programs are not worth protecting now.”

There has been some speculation that the change comes under an initiative to make room for new dual enrollment courses.

“I think that there are people who think dual enrollment is a superior option for students, or atleast a comparable option for students,” Mowrer said. “I feel it is more limited in terms of the students it is designed to reach.”

While this has freed up scheduling space within the master schedule, the overall enrollment expected in each class has not changed with student interest still being comparable to previous years. 

AP Lang and APUSH are holding steady with 125 and 150 students expected, respectively. This would put AP Lang at roughly 3 class sections with each maintaining around 40 students. APUSH will be sitting around 4 class sections with around 38 students. 

Honors English is standing steady around 97 students – roughly 3 sections. And AP European History is sitting around 90 students – roughly 2 sections. 

These section expectations are tentative, as students are still being moved around from class to class, but these numbers are what could be considered well-sized from a scheduling perspective and on the larger end from a class size standpoint.

“In general, each section should have approximately 36 students in it,” Pipitone said. “So let’s say 100 students want AP US History.  When blocking, you need an even number, so 2 or 4 sections.  2 sections will average 50–clearly too many students for one room.”

These tentative sections, previously, would have been a problem for scheduling as every blocked class had to run in pairs – for every APUSH section there had to be an AP Lang section. But now, every class can run into their own sections as needed. 

However, with the same amount of student interest as previous years the decision to, in essence, limit student choice has come out of nowhere. This coupled with the lack of input allotted for teachers on the decision has caused frustration for many.

“Richter’s been trying to unblock us since he got here,” Fork said. “And we’ve been pushing back on him.”

While separating these classes frees up scheduling room it also poses an issue for some of the curriculum surrounding the affected classes. Many of these classes are designed to build out student understanding of a time period via their partnership with their respective blocks.

For example, in history students could be learning about the romantic period while reading Frankenstein in their English class. This was designed in order to flesh out a time period and give students a better understanding of what they were learning in either history or English. 

Now with unblocking, classes will have to be either reordered or redesigned to make a more coherent curriculum and more importantly more condensed curriculum.

Classes such as AP US History will now have to condense their curriculum into, at most, 18 weeks and, in the spring terms 14 weeks, to prepare students for AP testing whereas they would have had 32 weeks in the current year-long block model. Not only does this put an immense time crunch for classes like AP European History which not only have to cover centuries of time but also have the added responsibility of teaching students the basic skills needed for AP testing, but it also creates difficulties for teachers who have hands-on projects.

“If you talk to those kids who took the stand alone it was tough,” Fork said. “I think that when the word gets out you’ll see the numbers further decrease, and that’s why I think there is a huge disservice happening.”

Furthermore skills that would have been built on in a class such as AP Lang that transfer into APUSH and back will have to be taught in a vacuum making skills weaker across disciplines.

Essentially this means that basic test taking strategies such as how to make it through certain tests sections, such as how to efficiently read documents for a DBQ or for a Synthesis Essay, will have to be more directly focused on in each class. Rather than the current method of learning it in one class and then practicing the skills in each. 

This restructuring has caused some fustrutration for teachers who have spent months or even years fine tuning their curriculum to function within the blocked model. Coupled with the demand for the classes, this has only added to the frustration. 

“I think that when you have 90 plus kids signing up for the block class it shows demand for that,” Fork said. “If you’re really trying to do what’s best for all students then you would be looking at the fact that there is demand.”

The change has also been questioned by Mowrer, as it does not seem to be linked to student success or failure which leads to the further question of whether or not blocked classes will return in the future.

“It’s hard to say because it didn’t seem as though the decision to unblock the classes was based on data linked to student success – so I’m not sure data demonstrating a lack of student success would compel a change,” Mowrer said.

On that note, with the removal of blocking student schedules are slated to become more flexible. In the past a student who wanted to take an AP History class but not the AP English would have simply had to bear with a class they didn’t like but now they will be able to choose one, or the other, or both classes. 

Some students who have previously been in blocked classes or who are currently in blocked classes see the change as less than desirable due to the amount of cramming that will have to happen to get ready for AP tests. 

“I don’t think [unblocking] is a good idea because it gives us a whole year to prepare for the AP test, like we have a lot more time to spread out the units,” junior Brooke Alger said. “We didn’t even get through all nine units of APUSH in the year that we had so how are we going to get through it in only one term.”

Other students see unblocking as unfortunate but understand it is an opportunity for students who don’t want to be forced to take a class they don’t have to.

“I would not have taken both of the classes,” Junior Emma Schrezenmeir said. “ I probably would have just taken AP Lang because that’s something you retain skill wise.”

Mowrer fears that unblocking classes will have a negative effect on students and their future AP classes due to a lack of community building as well as a possible lack of success on AP exams.

“We expect to see a negative ripple across all of our AP courses as a result of unblocking,” Mowrer said.

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