The Technology Institute for Music Educators (TI:ME) is a member of the SupportMusic Coalition (see www.supportmusic.com). The Coalition, organized by the efforts of NAMM, the International Music Products Association, and MENC, Music Educators National Conference, is comprised of more than 100 affiliate members, including music industry companies, state music education associations, national education organizations, and others. The members of the Coalition all come together to support music education through advocacy.
The Coalition this week has made a clear call to action in support of music's role in national education law.
Are you aware that Congress is considering the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the national law that, along with requiring vigorous assessment of schools and learning, also lists the arts among the core academic subjects?
Are you also aware that The No Child Left Behind Commission, a bipartisan, independent commission that examines the laws strengths and weaknesses, is actively holding hearings? The Commission is also soliciting comments that will be compiled and reported to Congress. The Coalition wants you to know about the work of the Commission, and encourages you and your schools and organizations to make comments in support of music education.
After receiving the Coalition's message this week I was motivated to check out some of the proceedings of a recent hearing, held in Hartford, Connecticut, on May 9th. The topic for this hearing was "High Quality Assessments and Reliable Data Systems Essential to Closing the Achievement Gap," and included testimony from New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Connecticut State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
As I listened and watched a video stream of the event, available from the Commission's website, I was struck particularly by a comment by James A. Peyser, Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education. One of the questions posed to Mr. Peyser was whether his state has had to cut back on "arts and music, PE (physical education) and languages, in order to implement provisions of this law (NCLB)?"
While Mr. Peyser acknowledged that "(MA) state education reform law does require assessments in all core academic subjects, including the arts," he speculated on the value of a well-rounded curriculum, as required by NCLB, specifically for schools that are struggling to make the grade in their English language arts, math and science assessments:
". . . by giving them (students) a lot of electives and a broad curriculum and failing them in the core academic subjects that are required for them to have successful opportunities in post-secondary education or the workforce. . again, I think we're kidding ourselves. . . "
I was disappointed in the simplicity and narrowness of this line of thinking. This isn't the first time I've heard lobbying for more hours for fewer subjects in recent weeks. Many states are grappling to find enough time for each of the core subjects.
In Texas a new bill requires four years of math and science, adding two more required credits for high school students to graduate. The legislature is also vetting a new rule that will require a physical education policy in middle schools. If districts choose to implement rules with a time requirement, music programs may suffer. There just isn't enough time in the established school year to handle all the new demands.
Consider that studies show that adding more instructional hours in math, science and English language arts doesn't directly correlate to higher test results. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that schools with vibrant arts environments engage students and attract teachers. And a Columbia University Study (1999) revealed that students in the arts are found to be more cooperative with teachers and peers, more self-confident and better able to express their ideas.
I've seen it often in my work in the New York City public schools, where VH1 Save the Music Foundation has granted dozens of electronic keyboard and electric guitar labs. The results from these programs are compelling, with students more interested in being in school and learning. Teachers in these programs frequently report that students clearly make connections between music, math, reading, science and more (http://metmagazine.com/mag/vh_helps_save/index.html).
These are difficult times. The federal education law requires more and more testing, yet the federal government isn't funding appropriately its own mandate. This squeezes school budgets, as does rising costs for medical plan contributions for teachers and staff, rising energy costs - the list goes on. All these factors put arts programs at risk.
How can you make a difference? Let your voice be heard. The SupportMusic Coalition asks that schools and other organizations make public comment to the Commission on No Child Left Behind. The TI:ME officers will comment. Your school administrators and school boards should too.
Interested in taking action? Here's a sample letter with talking points as provided by SupportMusic. Follow these four easy steps and join arts educators and supporters around the country in submitting comments about the importance of arts education:
- Review the following talking points at the bottom of this article.
- Incorporate some of them into your own personal letter. Include positive anecdotes or experiences about the importance of arts education.
- Submit your letter via the Commission's web site - simply copy, paste and submit:
With your action, the Commission will report to Congress that businesses, teachers, parents, and advocates around the country are insisting on a stronger place for the arts in NCLB and every child's education.
SupportMusic Coalition Talking Points:
- A child's education is not complete unless it includes the arts.
- No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) lists the arts among the core academic subjects, requiring schools to enable all students to reap the full benefits of a comprehensive arts education. However, a recent report from the Center for Education Policy concludes that, since the enactment of NCLB, instructional time for music and art in schools has been reduced by 22 percent.
- The federal commitment to arts education must be strengthened so that the arts are implemented as a part of the core curriculum of our nation's schools and are an integral part of every child's development.
- A comprehensive strategy for a complete education for all students includes high-quality, sequential arts instruction in the classroom, as well as participation and learning in available community-based arts programs.
- Comprehensive arts education for all helps students meet the ever-growing demands of the global economy. Students gain skills essential to succeeding in the ever-changing information age.
- Recent studies show that schools with large number of impoverished students are aided and transformed into vibrant learning environments when the arts are infused into their culture and curricula.
- Teacher retention and recruitment continues to be a daunting challenge for schools. However, when schools embrace the arts and become havens for innovation and creativity, they become places where teachers want to teach, and subsequently, students want to learn.
- Public schools have the responsibility for providing a complete education for all children. The federal government must exercise leadership to ensure schools meet the arts commitment put forth in NCLB.
- More research supporting the importance of arts education for every child is available at www.supportmusic.com.
by Lee WhitmoreLee Whitmore, Ed.D., is the Managing Director of SoundTree (www.soundtree.com), the educational division of Korg USA, Inc (www.korg.com). Distinguished educator, author, clinician and keyboardist, Lee has been a leading advocate for the integration of technology in music education for fifteen years. In addition to founding SoundTree (1995), Lee also served as adjunct faculty member at Columbia University Teachers College (1991 - 95), and as VP for Education at Cablevision Systems Corporation (1999 - 2002). He is currently the Treasurer for TI:ME (www.ti-me.org), the Technology Institute for Music Educators (2001 - present), and is a faculty member and technology lab director for the Gospel Music Workshop of America (www.gmwanational.org).