At our recent Upper School Pops Concert, our choir sang a beautiful song from the play Rent called “Seasons of Love.” The first three verses give you a sense of the message:

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

I was reminded of this song recently when going through the news of some of the cutbacks in the public school programs for next year. Because of the use of some school jargon, such as “Zero Hour,” the real implication of these cutbacks can be hard to understand. But like the song from Rent, they are moments that can be measured in minutes.

Here is a quick overview of the new policy in the public schools that 9th graders will not be able to take Zero Hour classes.

While Zero Hour sounds like an extra or something minimal, it really is the 7th period in the school day. Marshall’s high school has seven periods, we just call them 1-7 rather than 0-6.

The reduction in the Zero Hour means that all 9th graders can take only six classes. They will have to cut out something — music, art, foreign languages — because core classes take up the rest.

The school day will begin at 9:05AM, making Marshall’s school day 50 minutes longer. This  may not sound like a big deal, until you do the math:

  • 50 times 175 school days = 8,750 minutes of extra instructional time
  • 8,750 minutes / 60 minutes = 146 hours of extra instructional time
  • 146 hours / 6 hours (average school day) = 24 days of extra instruction
  • 24 days / 5 day school week = 5 extra weeks of instruction

Wow.

Now, add in the fact that Marshall School already has 10 extra days (or two weeks) of extra school days built into its annual calendar (175 vs. 165) and you have: 7 weeks of extra instruction for a Marshall 9th grader. That is almost two months of school time, hidden into the confusing description of a “zero hour reduction.”

Coming from such a wonderful concert last week, I am saddened that so much continues to be cut from school schedules. The liberal arts means a well-rounded education and an appreciation of what it means to be human.

“You hear students say, `I found out who I was because I was able to explore my identity in the visual arts,'” said Bob Sabol, president of the National Art Education Association in a recent StarTribune article on the nationwide trend to cut arts education. “It validates who they are as individuals.”

Eight-thousand, seven-hundred
and fifty minutes,
How do you measure
The education of a child?