When we were thinking of a way to show how the outdated calendar shortchanges students, we knew we needed to visually break down what the average state minimum requirements in annual school hours actually mean. And although over 1,000 schools are breaking the 180 day, 6 ½ hour mold, others are stuck with a minimum hourly requirement that, when broken down, amounts to a time spent gaining new knowledge that is, well, embarrassing.

See what I mean:

You can imagine my excitement when I came across this letter to the editor in the local paper in Gloucester, MA. This Gloucester parent, Lisa Fornero, also a teacher in a nearby community, did some mathematical digging of her own and wrote a letter sharing her dismay with the superintendent of the Gloucester schools.

When she broke down the 1,038 hours approved by Gloucester Public Schools for the 2013-14 school year (above the state’s mandated of 900 hours for elementary students and 990 hours for high school students), Ms. Fornero found that only the 765.5 hours are spent on instruction. That’s 756.5 hours to prepare students not only for the next grade, but to give them the skills to make them life-long learners in a highly competitive 21st century world.

I agree with Ms. Fornero that, at the very least, we should not see the minimum of time the state requires as simply ‘time in the building’ but meet that minimum through instruction and experiences. Perhaps then we can more fully tackle why we think giving students the bare minimum is enough.