New Report on Art and Music Classes-Alarming!

A bleak picture emerged from a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education on the state of arts education.

Fewer public elementary schools are offering visual arts, dance and drama classes than a decade ago, a decline many attribute to budget cuts and an increased focus on math and reading. The percentage of elementary schools with a visual arts class declined from 87 to 83 percent.

Music at the elementary and secondary school levels remained steady, though there were declines at the nation’s poorest schools.

Music and Arts classes are still out of reach for many. While 100 percent of high schools where 76 percent or more students qualify for free or reduced lunch — a key indicator of poverty — had a music class in the 1999-2000 school year, only 81 percent did a decade later.

See link to article in Star Tribune:

Apparently, in many states, we aren’t playing to what we know works relative to Music and Art classes:

1.  The cognitive advantages students have from participating in highly structured, highly rigorous Music and Art classes are statistically significant as revealed by numerous high quality research studies and reports.

2.  School districts and states can conduct far more feasibility studies, efficiency studies, and go farther in trimming regulatory departments and non-core areas (such as student transportation) to ease the ill-effects of tight funding on direct-to-student offerings, especially those that offer such incredible benefits such as high quality Music and Art classes.

3.  Social benefits are not as well-studied as the academic benefits of Music and Art classes; however, any in-tune parent knows the advantages gained in a childhood steeped in Music, Art, Theater, Sports, Dance, etc.

I am deeply disappointed by the findings of this new UDOE report.


P.S.  That wasn’t a swipe at student transportation-it is important for schools, districts, and states to offer.  I doubt there is a school transportation department where more efficiencies cannot be found (and implemented without cutting services to students).

Coaches–help for your Music Teachers

Many instructional leaders and coaches I know become withdrawn when it comes to observing and providing helpful feedback to teachers of subject areas in which they have little to no experience.  Coaching Music teachers is one such area–if you were not a musician or previously a Music teacher.

Coaches–enter those classrooms and find good things going on.  Also find the areas to help using your own deep knowledge about good instructional practice.

For example, in Music, if the teacher is singing a phrase or song and asking the student(s) to repeat the phrase–with their instrument (s) or their voice(s) it might be a good exercise.  If done too much, it is overuse of rote-recall (just like overuse of rote-recall questioning is not good practice in other subject areas).

Take a teacher teaching a Jazz lesson.  Music teacher sings: bah-dop-bee-bop-da bop so the students parrot  bah-dop-bee-bop-da bop and then the teacher says good job class.  This can be efficient for preparing an ensemble for a performance, but it does little to help students depend their analytical knowledge, etc.  Bloom or Madeline Hunter would say–bad practice if overused.  So should we.

Teachers deserve our best thinking and coaching.

bah-dop-bee-bop-da bop!

Have a great day.


The Role of Specials and Student Services Educators in College and Career Ready Focused Schools

A team of writers has assisted me in documenting some phenomenal work by a group of Music, Art, Physical Education, and other Specials teachers and staff on how their classroom work can best link to the work of core-content teachers.  Find a copy of the article at link:

My congratulations and appreciation to these teachers and staff members and to co-authors Scott Frauenheim, Karin Breo, and Rob Betz for help is preparing the article. Verbatim comments from participating teachers can also be found at link:

In these times when the important work and roles of Music, Art and other “Specials” area teachers are becoming increasingly under-valued and harder to fund, this article may also prove useful to you for advocacy purposes.  Feel free to share as you see fit.


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