As an elementary music teacher, I’m around music all day. In my class we experience music physically and comprehensively. We dance, sing, play instruments, listen, interpret, improvise, compare and contrast, and extrapolate meanings, to name a few. I know that music education is important. I see it in my kindergarteners who belt their hearts out, in my fourth-grade choir who swell with pride and glee when they perform beautifully together, and in my sixth-graders who show self-expression through creating songs in computer-based recording studios. In addition to allowing for deeper engagement with learning, music helps shape the way our students understand themselves and the world around them.
Music education programs throughout the country have had difficult times, often stemming from a lack of funding, low support or administrators who don’t see the value. Fortunately, current legislation and trends in education are pushing for a well-rounded education, including music as a core subject and providing more school time, support, and funding for music and arts.
Recently music education has gained a large status boost in American schools. Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act. For the first time it has been recognized as a part of a well-rounded education. The language of the act states that music education should be part of every child’s education. The focus on providing a well-rounded education is a huge change from No Child Left Behind, which defined achievement through testing in math and reading. In certain cases, federal funds may be used to provide music programs for school and assist music educators seeking professional development. Schools can assess their ability to provide a well-rounded education and implement performance progress measures, which can include student/parental engagement and school culture. The act also frowns upon pulling students from the classroom, including music and arts, for remedial instruction.
The real effects of this new legislation, however, will come from the collaboration between educators, legislators and the community. Steps to implement the various parts of this law were not gift-wrapped and delivered, and will take creativity and drive to see through to their potential.
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If you have ideas for how music education can reach out to and support the community, talk to your local music educator, district music supervisor or union representative. It is likely that they can help you advocate and contact the appropriate people. We need people with vision to lead us into a bright future.
Music is important. It can help you discover emotions and learn about cultures, and it can be an avenue for self-expression. Music education programs nurture the assets and skills that pave the way for a student’s future success, such as curiosity, creativity, collaboration, self-discipline and motivation.
If you want to learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act or becoming an advocate for music education, visit nafme.org/take-action/ or broaderminded.com.
Aaron Messinger has taught in the Boise School District for four years and is currently working toward his master’s at Boise State University.