On Wednesday, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards released the final version of the National Core Arts Standards, a re-envisioning of the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education. Their website is interactive and customizable, so you can definitely find what you want. A concise music-only version can be found at nafme.org/standards.
Over the past year of the drafts and review process, I’ve been probably the most vocal critic of the new music standards. As an Orff Schulwerk teacher, I love the focus on Process: Creating, Performing, and Responding. Yet also as an OS, I am bothered by the removal of content and skills, and the extensive focus on student discussion or writing (using verbs like reflect, explain, and describe in nearly all the standards by upper elementary). I absolutely agree that students should be able to verbalize their knowledge. Yet I think the standard-writers were not looking at these through the eyes of a brand new teacher. Such a teacher will teach to these activities, and skip over specific knowledge or skills that aren’t needed for that particular project. I think this is backwards, and the content and skills should be at the foremost of the teacher’s planning, with understanding and discussion based on learned material. If you want more on my concerns, feel free to browse through previous posts!
So, despite objections, the new standards are here. What now? As a teacher and state/national advocate, I see several possibilities moving forward.
- Adopt the Standards – Incorporate the new standards into my lessons and curriculum. Promote them at the state level and help other teachers find balance within what I see as an unbalanced guidebook.
- Ignore/Reject the Standards – Continue using the 1994 standards, my state standards, and the curriculum that I have been developing for my entire career. Advocate against state adoption and alignment with the new standards.
- Work to Change the Standards – By studying, writing about, and piloting the new standards, I can try to gain an in-depth understanding. By advocating against the standards as currently presented, I can try to create pressure for change, as well as open dialogue with those who are advocating for the new standards, to improve communication.
Obviously, I’m going for route number three. I cannot wholeheartedly endorse these new standards, yet I can’t fight against them unless I can demonstrate that I understand them and have experienced them fully. I encourage you to join me. Talk to your principal or supervisor about doing a dual-alignment with the new and previous existing standards in your lessons. Write to your DOE or state legislators, asking that the state review but NOT simply adopt the new standards. Write to NAfME leadership or on the NAfME online forums to express concerns. Write a blog post and share it on Twitter. Let’s create a new hashtag: #musicnotdiscussion. As with anything in this life, it’s those who speak up that make a difference! And feel free to share here in the comments about your advocacy or other ideas.