We have all heard the stories… teachers need to be held
accountable for student growth. I suspect most people would not disagree with
Where there is plenty of debate and disagreement though is
For subjects like language arts and math where there are
statewide assessments to measure student performance the task of tying student
growth to teacher evaluation “may” be easier. Notice I said, “may.” That’s
because just because something is possible does not mean it is the proper thing
to do and there is plenty of debate about tying student test scores to teacher
But here is the reality: tying teacher performance (ALL
TEACHERS) to student achievement and student growth is a freight train rolling
down the railroad track…. And it is heading down hill. The national movement tie
teachers assessment to student outcomes will be the “new normal” for teachers
across this country… including you… music and arts educators.
Which leads to the logical question… how will this be
And the answer the profession has right now is… “We do not
And this is the scariest statement of all.
Here is why:
School districts across the nation are moving to tie teacher
assessments to student outcomes. Many states have mandated these programs be in
place as early as the 2013/2014 school year. This creates a challenge for all
subjects that are in the “non-tested” category (Think all arts, world
languages, social studies, some sciences, physical education). In essence…
nearly 80% of teachers in the United States teach “non-tested” subjects. This
does not mean it will keep the administrators from implementing something…
anything just so they may say they are doing as they are told.
So here is the rub… our profession has yet to come up with a
solution to this issue and school administrators are actively seeking solutions.
The hard reality we face: either the music education field
comes up with a solution or series of solutions… or we will have one imposed
upon us by people who have no idea about the field. And I guarantee we will not
like the solution!
This is the scariest of thoughts.
Already in some states we have heard music teachers will be
measured by student outcomes in…. MATH! Yep, you read correctly. All that
training to allow you to become the most effective teacher possible (using
music as your educational tool of choice) will be reduced down to a measure of
something you have NO INFLUENCE OR CONTROL OVER.
This is what is at stake.
So… here is what needs to happen.
- Get over it – this issue is not going away. Ignoring
it will only put our profession at greater risk.
- Get a plan. There are plenty of districts that
are trying out ideas on ways to meet the administrators’ objectives. NAfME in
June hosted a National Symposium on Music Assessment and Teacher Evaluation to
tackle this very issue. Visit nafme.org or http://musicstandards.org
- In addition, be sure to reach out to other music
educators and your state music educators association to connect with others who
are tacking the same issues.
- Use social media to find and connect to your
peers who are interested in this issue. The hash tags #musiced #musedchat are
great places to start.
The reality of teacher evaluation systems in music is coming
fast. It will be up to all of us in the music education field to ensure that
the systems being implemented will measure our teachers based on their area of
expertise and student growth…
The question as it concerns elementary music is test what?
If the educators responsible for determining what to test are the same seemingly uninformed group of music supervisors, band directors, and secondary music teachers that are leading the testing train in Texas, then the emphasis will be on testing music page reading skills and not the areas that are most essential for the elementary age child. Music literacy is not the focus and ultimate
goal of elemtary music teaching according to Orff, Gordon, Brigitte Warner, pioneers of modern elemtary music pedagogy. Unless elementary music teachers begin speaking out and remind these folks that our major goal is having students experience and create their own music, the future music class will be just like many of our “basic” classrooms…a bland, joyless assembly line engaged in regurgitating facts onto a bubble sheet. Where will be the questions and testing of what I really teach, independent and group intune singing, playing ostinati, moving appropriately to music, creating their own choreography, melodies, improvising, and simply discovering how music brings joy? No, none of that will be tested because too many secondary folks on those committees are not creative enough to devise a way for those skills to be tested, and unfortunately, many of those folks believe the highest goal for elementary music is to produce band, orchestra and choir students to fill out their programs.