Today in an email, I was asked to share my thoughts:
“Given the current educational climate in our state, it would be helpful if the you could let me know what is happening in your school concerning Common Core, Testing, APPR, and the Tax Cap as well as any other local initiatives about these timely items and their impact on music education.”
(please excuse my poor grammar, etc, as the majority of this was written quickly over my school lunch…)
common core implementation has stretched the capacity of the instructional day to it’s absolute max. our district has adopted the state modules, and fitting these, along with the other host of AIS services that students require, has forced a VERY SPECIFIC schedule upon our school that grade level teachers MUST follow in order to accomplish their prescribed instructional tasks. our elementary school students are VERY fortunate right now, their music ensembles meet as a class, during the school day. the writing seems to be on the wall however and with the overwhelming demands of the state modules, the “SYSTEM” is literally pitting teachers against each other. professional colleagues each simply trying do their jobs the best that they can. we, music teachers, know passionately and without question that music education is an absolutely critical component in the development of all children. what we do in our music education curriculum has the power to scaffold and connect the dots for children in a way that is meaningful, personal, emotional and completely unique. As school districts clamor to jump on top of state initiatives and their rules and regulations, their continued attempts to reinvent the wheel that is school … administrators and colleagues who genuinely support art education in the daily curriculum of nys students are literally being forced to look the other way as creative arts programs continue to be squeezed out of the day around nys. the most shameful component of the state pressures is perhaps the “implement or face non-funding” threat that has COMPLETELY stripped school districts and communities from even pursuing the opportunity to support the children of their communities in ways that are meaningful and connected to their local communities and home environments. for, if they don’t comply, they lose the money.
i believe that the common core is good at heart. my sister worked in college admissions for many years and she used to share with me the nightmare of comparing kids from different states… let alone from different countries. just because one kid did great in one part of the country – were they really AS college ready as another? to that end, the unifying power of the core would allow children, eventually, to head to careers and college with some sort of commonalities in their local curriculums. in this sense, the CC standards are a positive notion.
the bigger question about the common core however, and the one that no one seems to be asking in public – do the new nys standards and philosophies truly align to the ambitions of society? this is a deep one… and without question, the paradigm of public education has remained LARGELY unchanged for decades. perhaps the entire SYSTEM of public education has truly become FAR off from what we as an american society even value … but again, you could probably write a dissertation about this.
as i continue to type this atop my little lunch break soapbox, the thing that I continue to reflectively laugh about the most – is the “NEW LANGUAGE” that the state modules are using and how incredibly analogous it is to music education. the philosophies… the language… the “struggle”… – it’s a riot to me as i sit through staff meetings listening to all of the new terms and the approaches that kids are being asked to take in practicing their executive abilities. anyone who has pursued the quest of learning to play an instrument ALREADY GETS THIS “NEW WAY” because, it has simply been, THE WAY.
so back to your question – what is the core’s impact on music education? well, it seems too soon to tell I guess. my fear? the CC will push more music out of the school day. From what I know about NYSSMA (and i may be greatly uninformed), it would appear that we need to exercise as much power and energy as we possibly can directly at the state ed dept., with the hopes of championing the vital importance of music education as an essential component of a NYS core curriculum. i implore nyssma to hit the pavement as hard as possible to help keep NYS music education a rich and integral part of every child’s day. i also implore my colleagues in every district to be as proactive as possible with their administrations and colleagues. make things work – for the sake of the kids that you teach. everyone is squeezed to the max right now because of the perfect storm that NYS has unloaded upon us. when I hear stories about music teachers who don’t take the entire school day into consideration, it makes me want to scream in horror as I believe that they are shooting our profession in the foot.
perhaps my greatest fear however is simply that the people who make decisions about WHAT kids learn, really just don’t GET IT … and this can happen at ANY level. they may have never had a musical moment or an aesthetic experience that allows them to FEEL the importance of music education, or who knows what. as educational institutions become further and further intrenched in statistical analysis and data crunching – the reality is that instructional leaders run the risk of becoming increasingly myopic, in that anything that isn’t quantifiable almost begins to lose value.
the human spirit is not quantifiable – in fact, it’s as far from quantifiable as anything could possibly become. we don’t walk through each day analyzing our human interactions like a scantron machine. and music, is just this… unquantifiable. music IS human interaction – we know as music teachers that it represents the absolute greatest sum of our emotions, our hearts, and our minds.