Edit: The NCCAS review, once submitted, cannot be updated (and I’ve already done mine). If anyone wants to borrow my structure below and submit it, you are welcome to steal!
There is one week left to review the new National Core Arts Standards. If you haven’t yet taken the time, please do the review today!
Despite my participation, urging, and normal positive outlook, however, I must admit to being depressed by the state of these Standards. Here’s an analogy:
You are a fisherman (or woman). You spend your whole life on boats, and understand watercraft well. One day, a group of fishermen show you the new larger fishing vessel they are crafting together. They tell you that this new type of boat will replace all the older boats, and they want you to help them by commenting on the paint, the size of the cabin, and the number of cup holders.
Your first thought is, “Ok, cool!” But when you approach the ship, you notice right away that the keel and rudder are on top of the cabin, far from the water! You try to point this out, but that’s not what they want you to review. They say, “Well, the cars don’t have things dragging underneath, and we need to keep up with the cars. Please tell us if this is the right shade of purple.”
So, the analogy isn’t perfect, but it expresses my frustration with this process. The new standards are flawed before you get to the individual grade-level descriptions they are asking us to evaluate. And like the fishermen, I’m afraid there’s been too much invested to start over, even if they see the flaws.
It didn’t have to be this way. Here’s an example of what the standards could have looked like.
- Reflecting and Refining
- Singing & Expressive Speech
- Playing Instruments
- Moving and Playing Body Percussion
- Reading & Analyzing
- Reflecting and Refining
- Connecting to History & Culture
- Connecting to Other Disciplines
Notice that this version maintains all the skills from the 1994 Standards, but places them under the new umbrella to align with the other arts. Anything that you might think is “missing,” such as selecting and planning would more appropriately be used as sub-level descriptors underneath one of the listed analytical standards (reflect, analyze). The Connecting strand, as written in the draft, essentially just doubles what has already been said. By bringing back in the specific connections listed in 1994, we create something new.
If we started with something like my list above (and by no means do I think it’s perfect), we could list grade-appropriate expectations for musical skill and knowledge development, which is completely missing from the main document of the draft. I’m not quite sure why this isn’t the approach they took. It seems to me they put the rudder on the roof by taking musical skills and knowledge out of our core standards.
So what do we do now? Do we accept whatever comes out of this national process, or do we fight on at the state and local level to keep reasonable standards that make sense to us? I know personally that I cannot endorse the draft standards as they stand, and don’t think the state of Iowa that I call home should adopt them. I worked on the recent addition of Core Companion (so-called because they haven’t been legislatively adopted yet) standards in Iowa, and they are aligned to the 1994 standards. I see no benefit from going to these new standards. Iowans believe fiercely in independence and local control, which is why we are only now getting around to state standards at all.
What can you do? First, don’t give up on the draft quite yet. Do your part and follow the review, but make full use of the blank input boxes to go beyond the questions asked. Second, if it comes to it, support meaningful standards in your state. Talk to your Dept. of Ed, your legislators, your Arts associations. Work in your district to adopt a meaningful curriculum that has skills and content.
And cross your fingers and hope the rudder gets put back in the water.