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Block Scheduling:

Road Block or Building Block for AP Students?
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Fall Final exam, AP Psych

The AP exams have been a defining characteristic of high-achieving students’ school years. That being said, the AP classes must be adapted due to the implementation of the new block schedule.
This coming school year, Pennridge will adopt a new schedule system for classes: block scheduling. This system will break the year into two main semesters, and students will take four 85-minute classes each semester, roughly 1.5 times more than the current 55 minutes, allowing students to learn more. However, there is a problem with this method concerning AP classes. AP classes are college-level courses that allow students to get college credit by taking exams at the end of the school year (early May at Pennridge). The problem is that dividing the classes into two semesters means that the students who took the class at the beginning of the year would be disadvantaged when retaining the information for the tests.

This issue has been remedied by having AP classes go all year, alternating on an “A/B” schedule in which the class recurs every other day. Theoretically, this will allow students to have the AP material fresh in their minds when exam season approaches. But is this enough to match the efficacy of the current period system? Could it prove to be better? A popular method for preparing for the AP exams is to study and review material as the exams approach. However, students also prepare outside of class. The Princeton Review recommends students begin studying material 1-3 months in advance to allow for plenty of time to get familiar with the test questions’ formats, syntax, and styles. It also recommends developing a schedule to balance multiple AP class reviews simultaneously. CollegeBoard, the organization behind the AP Exams and the SAT, advises similarly but also recommends reviewing past AP exams. These methods of learning appear to be unaffected by the schedule change. So what is the concern?

Ethan Vo, who will be a senior when the block schedule is adopted next year, indicates that, while on the whole, the new schedule will be beneficial, he is concerned that the alternation of class days could make it more challenging to learn, especially when it comes to three-day-long weekend gaps. “Sometimes I study right before a test and overload my brain, and I take a day in between [then and the test],” Vo explains. “[If] it’s Friday and then there are three days in between, I [would] feel out of the loop.” He also expresses his concern for absences, noting that students would miss twice as much content per class and be further behind than with current circumstances.

Timothy Busch teaches AP Government. He has concerns that under block scheduling, his AP classes “will have less time to review; I will need all but 5-10 days to cover all of the topics from the college board. Instead of having one week to review, it might be two weeks.” He also states, “I think the drawbacks are getting accustomed to a new schedule and making adjustments as the year goes on. I see it as a new challenge to adjust my teaching to the block format.”

Nevertheless, there are quite a few benefits to be reaped from the change. Cara Gurysh, House Principal of the Class of 2024, points out that the overall workload will lessen for students as they will be balancing fewer classes at once. Additionally, Busch sees how the new setup could be helpful to hands-on classes, specifically “the science lab classes and art classes that need a longer time to work on things, like wood shop, food prep, and so on.” In short, the new schedule, like all changes, will take some time to get used to. Pennridge is anticipating the success of this program and the success of its students. Only time will tell whether or not this is the case.

Sources:
https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/ap-exams
https://acrobat.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3Adcdcbb68-ed9b-38e6-926a-6243182446e6&viewer%21megaVerb=group-discover
https://blog.collegeboard.org/what-expect-when-taking-your-first-ap-exam
https://www.schoolschedulingassociates.com/wp-content/uploads/canady/VariousWays.pdf

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Hudson Poe, Student Writer
Hudson Poe, Grade 12. Hudson enjoys strategy games, logic puzzles, sci-fi movies, spending time with his family, and math. He is an active member in NHS and FCA. He plans to go to a currently undetermined college to study physics and hopes to get a master's degree in this field.

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