M-BLOCK CHANGES TO OCCUR
By Alexa D'Amato
For at least the first few weeks of the second semester, students will not be able to change their Masco Block locations for Friday.
Known as M-Block, the 36 minute block provides teachers and students an extra opportunity for whatever they need. Students can use the block for many things, including signing up to see teachers and get extra help. Students can sign up for a teacher’s room themselves on the PowerSchool Adaptive Scheduler the day before, which is only available on the PowerSchool website. In addition, teachers can “draft” students they need to see into their M-Block.
To gain M-Block, students lost after school extra help on Mondays and Wednesdays, as it is now limited to Tuesdays and Thursdays. M-Block provides students with after school obligations the chance to receive help from teachers outside of class time during the school day.
When finalizing and releasing the plan for the pilot schedule in June 2022, the expectation for M-Block was always that there would be four days students could move from their home base teacher.
Having one “home base day” would allow students who might struggle to get a spot in a teacher’s room the chance to ask to be drafted into their M-Block, when there’s less competition. It would also alleviate pressure on teachers and students to constantly be running around, instead, they could just stay in one place and relax.
“When the scheduling committee thought about it last year, there always was this idea about a home base day, but when it rolled out and the timing of how we opened the portal, we didn't find our way there,” said high school principal Mary Jo Carabatsos. “In a way, we're almost going back to the original idea that we had last spring.”
In order for students to be able to select which day teacher they want to be with for M-Block, Carabatsos has to unlock the PowerSchool Adaptive Scheduler. There were some weeks where there would be a glitch or alternative issue, preventing students from switching their M-Block unless it was requested by a teacher for a day.
When that unintended mistake occurred, however, Carabatsos was not just met with frustration. Instead, some teachers expressed relief at this inability to move from the home-base M-Block.
“We were getting feedback from people who appreciated [the scheduler] not being open, because then they just had the [originally scheduled M-Block] kids in front of them, and they could find themselves a little breathing room where they could invite certain other kids,” said Carabatsos. “It's teachers helping students who haven't yet taken advantage of what M-Block was supposed to be.”
This allowed teachers to draft students into their M-Block who needed extra help but were not able to sign up for it previously. Many M-Blocks fill up quickly, often with the same students every day.
The scheduling committee created a survey that was sent to teachers and students in late October, as a way to hear their opinions.
“It was definitely not student feedback, it was definitely more adult feedback,” said Carabatsos. “It was a group decision of [the scheduling committee members present] when we were looking at all the data.”
An estimated 67% of the 687 students who took the survey said they left their home base M-Block 2 or fewer times a week. By having one home base day, students’ schedules will likely not be drastically changed.
Though students cannot move themselves on Fridays, they are still able to see a teacher and request to be drafted by them if they feel they need help.
“I want students to know that if they really feel strongly that they need to meet with the teacher, they should email or speak with their teacher and say, ‘I really need to see you,’” said Carabatsos. “I [also] want students to know it's not permanent. We're trying it. We're testing it out. We're in a pilot, we're trying some new things. I'm hoping that it will go well, and if it doesn't, it's a button to bring it back.”
To catch future glitches that may prevent the Adaptive Scheduler from being opened, the portal will now be overseen by two people.
Although changes are happening to the schedule used for the 2022-2023 school year, it is still a pilot schedule. Many changes can happen quickly, but can also be reversed just as fast.