- According to an analysis of 9th-grade performance data from the Center for High School Success, freshmen attending high schools with 4x4 scheduling models are more likely to be on-track to graduate than peers on traditional 8-class schedules, regardless of English learner, special education or socioeconomic status. The data was gathered from 76 partner schools in six states: Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington
- In a 4x4 scheduling model, also known as block scheduling, students take four 90-minute courses per day over the course of four quarters rather than eight 45-minute classes per day over two semesters. Across all students, 74% of 9th-graders in 4x4 or similar school models were likely to be on-track to graduate, compared to 63% in non-4x4 schools.
- The spread skewed a bit wider for ELs (66% vs. 45%), special education (70% vs. 55%) and economically disadvantaged students (75% vs. 55%). The data also shows an advantage of a few percentage points for attendance rates at or above 91% (66% vs. 63%) and GPAs at or above 3.0 (43% vs. 39%).
Research from the University of Chicago has identified being on-track during freshman year as a key graduation indicator. Those who are on-track in 9th grade are four times more likely to graduate. Conversely, those experiencing high absentee and failure rates often never recover from those stumbles.
In an op-ed for The Hechinger Report, Center for High School Success Interim National Director Kaaren Andrews and Stand for Children Data Analytics Director Habib Bangura wrote that this is particularly critical ahead of the 2021-22 school year, in which incoming freshmen will have spent "half of their middle school lives in an altered educational environment" due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While block scheduling isn't a recent innovation in education, the pandemic has led many schools nationwide to reconsider scheduling models to better serve students — both in online and hybrid learning environment, and for when they return to in-person learning. This has also included a reconsideration of school start times, which researchers have touted as contributing to improved student achievement when pushed back to at least 8:30 AM for middle and high school students.
Among long-touted advantages of the model are:
- Fewer courses for students and teachers alike to concentrate on each semester.
- More manageable student-teacher ratios per semester.
- Increased instructional time to allow for in-depth study, peer collaboration and 1:1 interactions with teachers.
- Lighter homework and assessment loads per student.
- Greater flexibility to retake failed courses.
Concerns have included potential difficulties scheduling courses in advanced placement tracks or music, potential loss of content retention, transfer issues, and the overuse of lecture-based educational models.