Montgomery High School Block Schedule FAQ
Q Why does MHS utilize a block schedule rather than a traditional eight period schedule?
A We believe that there are great benefits to both students and staff.
Q What is a block schedule?
A A block schedule is a type of academic scheduling in which students have
fewer classes per day for a longer period of time.
Q How is the MHS block structured?
A We run a type of block schedule called an A/B schedule in
which students would have an eight period schedule broken up over two days.
Day one (ADay) would consist of periods A1, A2, A3, & A4 and day 2 (B Day)
would consist of periods B1, B2, B3, & B4. All periods are 84 minutes in length, and
each day would be broken up with a 50 minute Unit Lunch period immediately following block 2.
Q What is unit lunch?
A Unit Lunch is a single 50 minute period in which all students will eat at the
same time. Students will have access to outside courtyards and fields as well
as tables underneath the science wing overhang. The students will be
responsible for cleaning up after themselves and keeping areas clean. They
will have the opportunity to eat, relax, hang-out with, and exercise (wiffle
ball, hacky sack, Frisbee) with their friends. We have explored other schools
(Hunterdon Central, WWP-North, Watchung Hills) who have the unit lunch
and received positive feedback from their administration, students and staff.
They’ve reported that students are less stressed and would never wish to
return to separate lunches. Additionally, this time will be utilized by faculty
to work in Collaborative Learning Teams on curricular and instructional
Q Can MHS accommodate all 1700 students during inclement weather?
A Yes. Students can eat in the commons, gymnasium and other specified areas
of the building.
Q Will the students have time to get served and eat their lunch?
A Yes, with time to spare. Hunterdon Central feeds over 3200 students and
West Windsor Plainsboro North feeds 1700 within twenty minutes. We will
do the same.
Q What will the teachers do during Unit Lunch?
A The faculty will rotate between supervising the lunch and working in
Collaborative Learning Teams.
Q What are Collaborative Learning Teams (CLTs)?
A Teachers in common subject areas will work together in CLTs to clarify what
students must learn, gather evidence of student learning, analyze that
evidence, and identify the most powerful teaching strategies. We believe that
reflective teaching must be based on evidence of student learning, and
reflection is most powerful when it is collaborative. The CLTs are a lynchpin
to providing the best possible educational experience to our students.
Q Are CLTs necessary during the school day?
A Absolutely. Collaboration with colleagues is essential in other professions.
Law firms require attorneys to meet on a weekly basis to review issues and
strategies in their cases. Architects, engineers, and construction managers
meet weekly to track progress and solve problems as a building takes shape.
Richard DuFour, educational author and consultant states that, “Educators are
professionals, and they too benefit from the insights, expertise, and collective
efforts of a team of colleagues. Collaboration is not a frill; it is an essential
element of professional practice.”
A Research supports the importance of collaboration. “The collaborative team
has been called the fundamental building block of any learning organization,”
says DuFour, “the best structure for achieving challenging goals, and the most
productive organizational structure… No district should disregard the
compelling evidence that a collaborative culture represents a more promising
strategy than teachers working in isolation. Districts should be seeking ways
to help educators work smarter by providing time for them to work together to
address the challenges they face.” MTSD’s goal that, “All staff members
demonstrate commitment to the success of every child and to continual
professional growth” is addressed through our CLTs.
Q What are the educational benefits to block schedule?
A The extended time in class will provide opportunity for an increased use of
various student-centered instructional styles (e.g., cooperative and small group
learning, hands-on projects, project-based learning, and simulations). The
periods will also provide opportunity to gain more in-depth understanding of
concepts and provide more opportunities for critical thinking. The National
Training Lab reports that we remember only one-fifth of what we see and
hear, 80 percent of what we experience directly, and 90 percent of what we
teach to others. Discussions, direct experience (simulations, etc.), and student
sharing are all highly effective methods of learning. But they’re also timeconsuming.
With extended class periods, however, we can use these best
practices more often.
A It is important for students to be able to explore content in depth, making
deeper connections with their existing knowledge base. Deeper connections
translate into better retention and heightened problem-solving skills.
Q Will students fall behind further if they are absent for a day in the block as opposed to
the current 8-period day?
A Not really. If they are absent in the block, they will miss four classes as opposed to the normal eight. Additionally, students have a
study hall that will enable them to catch up on missed assignments.
Q Do all students have study hall?
A Yes. We believe that our students are extremely stressed with a rigorous
academic schedule. Additionally, they are very busy within the community as well as club and extra-curricular
activities after school. The study hall will give time to students where time is
desperately needed. Students may also utilize this time for other
opportunities, such as on-line courses and service projects.
Q Will seniors still get early dismissal?
A Yes. A senior who selects early dismissal as part of their schedule will be permitted to
leave after the third block each day. However, this also varies based on the individual schedules of each student.
Q Doesn’t an 84-minute class cause more harm than good with the attention span of a
A Not if the instruction is broken up into segments of engaging, student-centered
activities. Teachers will make the important transition from the traditional
role of “the giver of knowledge” to the much more acceptable “a facilitator for
learning” in the classroom. The goal is not to get through page 175 by 9:37
a.m. The goal is to increase learning which will happen with the use of
appropriate instructional strategies.
Q How does MHS avoid an 84-minute lecture?
A The CLTs mentioned above aid in providing teacher professional development. Furthermore, supervisors and administrators visit classrooms regularly to help ensure that instructional techniques are varied to meet the needs of all of our students.
Q What impact does the block schedule have on AP and other advanced courses?
A The utilization of the A/B block schedule ensures that teachers will be meeting with students
regularly all year. We have not seen or experienced any issues with AP or advanced
courses since the inception of the block schedule. In fact, the opportunity to examine content in greater depth and
develop critical thinking skills will aid students in higher level courses.
Q Will my child lose continuity of instruction with only being able to see their teacher
every other day?
A We do not believe that this will occur. In fact we believe that our students
will retain knowledge longer, be able to apply knowledge better, and
assimilate to a schedule more like the one that they will have when they enter
college. Additionally, teachers will have longer periods of time with their
students to build relationships, understand their students and improve
Q What happens to the schedule when there is a weather related cancellation?
A If an A Day is cancelled due to snow. The next day of school will be a
ADay. That day will not be skipped.
Q Are there any economic ramifications of the block schedule?
A The block does not have negative ramifications for the budget.