The Eight Period Block Schedule is Hindering Education


Senior Jordan Hubbard faints on a table amidst the mounds of homework he has accumulated from his 8 classes whilst struggling to maintain his 4.0 GPA.

There’s no better feeling than changing into comfy clothes and relaxing after coming home from a long, rigorous day of school.

Sound relatable?

I didn’t think so.

At Air Academy High School, Kadets take eight classes per semester. This means students must complete homework, projects and other assignments for eight different subjects, all at the same time. As a result, most Kadets don’t experience the luxury of spending a cozy afternoon resting and absorbing the material they learned that day.

Before the misguided eight period schedule was adopted, all D20 schools were under the seven period class schedule.

A rather odd concept, this schedule included seven periods that were broken up over two days, with third period as a short block which met every day. This schedule posed its own problems, as english department chair and teacher Cyndy Morgan pointed out.

“If you taught the same class second block and third block, what you planned for a 90 minute class is not gonna be what you plan for a 50 minute class, and sometimes you had to split tests,” she said. 

D20 made the collective switch to the eight period system four years ago, copying the schedule which was first implemented at Discovery Canyon Campus.

Principal Daniel Olson outlined the reasoning behind this switch.

“It allows students to take more credits, to have more room in their schedules for electives, to take support classes or acceleration classes,” he said.

While this idea was acceptable in theory, there are too many areas where it falls flat.

If students aren’t staying after school for sports or other activities, working the afternoon shift at their jobs, or attending some other obligation, they are bringing school home and spending hours chipping away at schoolwork.

Research at Stanford University concluded that, on average, students who have three or more hours of homework per night reported higher levels of stress, physical health problems and lack of balance in their lives.  

Senior Nidhi Unnikrishnan, who defends the eight period schedule, advises students on how to manage their time,

“I take six academic/weighted classes (four AP), and it can definitely be stressful at times, but partials are very beneficial. Overall, I would say my stress is associated with procrastination, and not having eight classes.”

However, not everyone can manage their academic course-load as responsibly.

If it isn’t the homework that’s weighing down a student the most, it’s the mental sucker punch that comes from learning up to eight different subjects in the same semester.

Frankly, the course-load at AAHS is often overbearing.

One of the reasons that D20 moved to the eight period schedule in the first place was so that students could take more like study halls and electives that they may not have been able to fit into their schedules before.

But, looking at the academically motivated nature of AAHS Kadets, it seems as if the schedule change has resulted in the opposite effect.

While this is obviously not true for every student and applies mainly to those who actively seek out rigorous courses, many Kadets enrolled in AP or honors courses are not taking just one difficult class, they’re taking as many weighted courses as they can.

“I do think that kids are more stressed (since the switch to the eight period schedule) and I think that it might be because they’re taking six AP classes and maybe signing up for too much,” said Morgan.

At a college-focused school such as AAHS, students often see a more open schedule as an opportunity to take extra weighted classes to build their college résumés and reinforce their GPAs.

Olson’s critique on this system focuses on the time constraints of a 90 minute block class.

“I think we’re seeing a shift to where learning should be the constant, we should not worry so much about how much time it takes, but whether the student learned the material,” he said.

Olson hopes to progress to a more fluid learning environment, where classes focus on whether or not the material is learned, not the time constraints of a block period.

However, this would be difficult to achieve in a high school, and I’m not fully convinced that time constraints are the main issue. The real problem is that when students learn eight subjects at a time, they experience an information overload. This makes it hard to learn all the material that teachers carefully plan into 90 minute class periods, as Kadets are already inundated with a flood of academic and extracurricular excess.

I’m not saying that the eight period schedule is the worst option; like Olson said, “…there’s pluses and minuses to every schedule.”

But, there is a system that has more “pluses” than the current one.

From personally experiencing the four-by-four block schedule during my freshman and sophomore years at Union Pines High School in Carthage, North Carolina, I’ve determined that this system is the most effective in terms of student mental health and academic performance.

The 4×4 schedule calls for the full completion of four classes per semester. These classes are 90 minutes long and occur every day for that semester, and a set of four new courses begins during the second semester. AP courses occur every other day for the entire year, as not to disrupt the process of AP testing at the end of the school year.

Findings published by Hanover Research in 2014 stated that,

“In terms of attendance and student behavior, existing studies indicate that block schedules slightly improve overall attendance and student behavior over traditional schedules.”

Hanover Research also outlines that the four-by-four schedule is beneficial because:

  • It focuses on “depth versus breadth” because students and teachers can focus on fewer subjects at a time.
  • It allows for individualized pacing; “Advanced students can cover material at a faster rate, enabling them to finish sequential classes such as Algebra I and II within one academic year.”
  • Students who fail a class can retake it in the same year.

Ultimately, learning is the goal of attending high school. But, the eight period schedule hinders students’ ability to learn academic material and stresses them out to an unhealthy extent.

The four-by-four schedule, though not perfect, solves many of the problems that the eight period system currently causes, which is why it should be considered in order to optimize students’ learning experience in D20.