Proposed National Arts Standards Drafts: Heavy Thoughts on a Heavy Subject

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As you most likely know by now, a coalition of various arts education organizations formed to review and propose new national standards. 

The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards began organizing in 2009 to formulate standards to revise and serve as a “re-imaging” for the 1994 Arts Standards (NCCAS Conceptual Framework. )

Drafts for each arts standards was up for review last summer and apparently met with some strong opposition, based on what I had seen on music education Facebook groups. New draft previews were just launched on February 14, with comments closed on March 1. 

My thoughts? Well, my friend Tim Purdum highlighted my concerns very well (and probably more eloquently than I can!). This is a good read, but I will go ahead and voice my concerns as well (a little more colloquially, to be sure, but it’s from the heart, as I listen to the Lenscrafters commercial, where the background music is “Street Song” from Music for Children Volume 3, Murray edition!):

  • As most of you know, I am working on my PhD. Now, readings for PhD sometimes take 2-3 rounds before the concepts sink in. Unfortunately, I had to apply this same process to these standards drafts. I’m an experienced teacher of 20 years, many hours of PD trainings, and becoming extremely experienced in the art of research. If these standards confuse ME, what would they do to a new teacher? What teacher, even an experienced one, is going to have this kind of time deciphering these between incorporating Common Core into music, working on programs, turning in lesson plans, doing grades, being a counselor, working on after school groups, and being a regular member of his/her family?
  • Where are the regular objectives? Why is it so difficult to decipher what were the original 9 music standards, so simply stated and so eloquently to the point. Would not composition and improvisation satisfy the higher order thinking and thought processes? 
  •  If a committee of teachers meet state-wide to draft new state standards, where is the independence for each state? It’s not supposed to happen. Which leads me to the next bullet…
  • Not all music programs are created equal. Some teachers are lucky (like me when I am in my regular teaching position) and can see students 30 minutes every other day. Some teachers are lucky if they see their kids 30 minutes once a week. With holidays and snow days, many teachers don’t see their kids at all. Some teachers see combined classes. Some music classes are taught by non-specialists. As desirable as it would be to have arts programs more equitable, it still isn’t there. While we are still fighting for music programs all over the country, adding these standards and hoping they will be adopted will make a frustrating situation even more frustrating. Leading to yet another bullet point:
  • I am concerned that the true purpose of these standards is to “prove” that we teach higher level thinking. I’m really tired of “proving” ourselves. I feel I have proven myself to my students, my parents, and most of my colleagues, who acknowledge the importance of and a love for the arts. I am also concerned about the potential for forced assessment. I do not wish to be mandated as to which higher level skill is assessed, and HOW I do it. This is taking the autonomy away from the teacher. Classroom teachers are facing this more and more, and now, in classes that are havens for students away from this hardcore drilling, the shadow looms again. 
  • Like the Common Core standards, are all of these standards age-appropriate based on child development and again, amount of time in music class (called experience, review, and recall time?)
  • It is obvious from the title of my blog that I am not TOTALLY anti-higher order thinking and anti-Common Core, at what I consider the heart of the matter: cross-curricular at all levels to show how all learning disciplines are connected directly and indirectly AND teaching our students how to think for themselves. But when I have students ask me what time it is when the clock is right above them (and these are intermediate-aged students), it becomes apparent to me that students want answers given to them, which I believe is a side-product of too much teaching to the test. It is NOT the fault of the classroom teachers. It is NOT the fault of administrators, even. They are mandated these stipulations from those in government who have no idea what a child stage is like. I don’t want our coalition of arts educators to feel they need to join in lock-step in order to save jobs.
  • I wish I had known about this coalition and volunteers. Somehow, I missed it. But, I feel these standards can meet the goals and desires of 21st Century Learning without being so vague, so difficult to read, and so esoteric.

But that’s my opinion. Check out the standards for yourself and see what you think. Remember, preview and opinions are due by March 1. Please feel free to comment your concerns or accolades if you agree with the standards here as well. We learn from each other. I am always open to seeing possibilities in a different light, and I believe, as educators, most of my readers might be as well if explained in a thoughtful manner.

On to positive topics: Brace yourself for a Teachers Pay Teachers sale! More later……

Newest product at the Musical Cure for the Common Cure Store:


Weevily Wheat Musical Multiplication Facts

Sneaky way to get in some of that math Common Core using a popular folk song.

One Comment

  • Thank you for such an honest post. When you said, "I'm really tired of PROVING ourselves", it resonated with me. I share many of your concerns. As a classroom teacher with eight years of experience and a masters degree in curriculum and instruction, the new standards are difficult to sort through. From a personal standpoint, it feels like just another layer of work.

    Reply

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I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have just completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.

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