High School Boys Benefit From A Modified Block Schedule

Students walk in school hall with focus on clock overhead
Chris Williams, Assistant Principal for Academics

In the fall of 2017, De Smet Jesuit High School established an eight-period, rotating modified block schedule with noticeable benefits evident almost immediately. Calmer, less frequent transitions in the hallways, lowered stress levels, and enhanced quality class time are just a few of the commonly acknowledged gains of a block schedule.

Students attend four 75-minute classes on one day, then the alternate four classes on the next, following an A/B pattern. Taking eight classes each semester is one of the distinguishing features of a modified block schedule compared to a traditional block schedule, where students only have four classes each semester. In our rotating schedule, each day begins with a different period, so students experience all their classes at various times of the day over the course of a semester. While many freshmen parents worry about potential confusion, students find it easy to adapt to and actually appreciate the chance to experience each class when they’re naturally more energetic and focused.

Improving Quality Class Time, Flexibility, and Collaboration

The block schedule affords time for more highly engaged projects such as Dr. Baxendale’s CSI unit with mock crime scenes and Mr. Feld’s rocket launching lesson. It encourages more profound critical thinking, deeper discussions, and more reflective work—hallmarks of Jesuit education.

One of the primary goals of adopting the eight-period block schedule was to improve scheduling flexibility and student satisfaction with their schedules. Two years into the new system, we report more than 90% of students have an entire schedule full of their first-choice classes.

The eighth period also allows departments to have common teacher planning periods, which fosters collaboration among the faculty. The A/B block enables administrators to arrange teachers' classes such that they teach all sections of a particular class on the same day, which has boosted teacher satisfaction and allows them more focused preparation. These effects have led to better classes and improved student learning.

Reducing Stress

Four classes per day reduces the number of transitions for students and teachers by almost half. One minute was added to the passing periods, enabling students to more easily arrive to class on time and not feel as rushed. A slightly later (8:30) start time to the school day has resulted in fewer tardy students and offers a little extra sleep in the morning. Studies have shown that more sleep for adolescents increases academic achievement, and initial surveys indicated that 95% of students agreed the block schedule reduced stress.

By adding the eighth period, each student now automatically has a study hall built into their schedules, providing them time during the day to do homework or independent work. Productive use of study hall time and healthier amounts of rest have led to better learning and less stressful evenings, which contributes to improved student mental and physical health.

De Smet Jesuit embraces innovative changes such as the modified block schedule as we continue to work for the benefit of young men’s education and overall well-being.


To learn why De Smet Jesuit’s schedule, curriculum, and faculty are successful and effective with teenage boys, please contact Chris Williams, Assistant Principal for Academics or visit us on campus or online.

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