Studies show block scheduling lowers student achievement. Recent studies by Iowa State University and ACT (American College Test) found that students at schools using the 4 x 4 semester plans (four classes per semester) had markedly lower ACT scores in the first few years following implementation. Students at schools using the eight-block alternating day plans (eight classes throughout the year, with four classes on one day and four more classes on the following day) experienced slight declines. Schools using the traditional eight-period day showed little change in student achievement. The block scheduling fad typically divides the school day into 80-90 minute blocks of time.
Educational computer software sales have plummeted in recent years, while video game sales have skyrocketed. Sales of educational software, which rang up a half-billion dollars a year during the late 1980s, dipped to $325 million in 2001. Video game sales shot up 43% to a record $9.4 billion in 2001, although former educational software companies who have diversified raked in some of the loot. Industry observers estimate that only 350 educational titles will debut in 2003. Last year, over 1,200 video games for personal computers and televisions were produced, despite ongoing concerns about the violent and sexual content of many popular video games.
The school board in rural Polk County, Florida is drafting a new Zero Tolerance policy. Some board members are concerned that too many children are receiving one-year expulsions for carrying pocket knives to school, a traditionally common practice in an area where hunting, fishing and citrus farming are the rule. School board attorney Wes Bridges told the Tampa Tribune that too many children are being expelled, including kindergartners and 1st-graders "who never intended to harm anyone with the pocket knives they brought to class." The new policy is expected to give principals the flexibility to discipline students on a case-by-case basis.
An honors English class at Red Mountain High School in Mesa, AZ, agreed to make an offensive novel optional. Grendel, by John Gardner, is a modern version of the 7th century English poem, "Beowulf." Student Hilaree Bowers found that it "uses the F-word several times and provides graphic detail about body parts." Miss Bowers said reading the book made her "feel violated." She and several like-minded classmates had their parents write letters to school administrators and contact the honors English teachers about the book. Hilaree reports that "fortunately, the teachers heeded the negative responses they received and decided to make Grendel optional for their future classes."