Analyzing the Situation
In this section, you will…
Determine the status of your school music program. If you decide that your program is currently strong enough to give every student satisfactory access to a well-rounded music education, set up and maintain a public-relations effort and keep contact with decision makers. If you find problems:
- Identify them by type of problem and the grade level they affect.
- Set reasonable long- and short-term objectives for the music program in your schools. Always strive for improvement. Set your sights on the standards outlined in MENC’s publication, The School Music Program: Description and Standards.
- Record information on the status of your program. Compare reality to reasonable ideals.
- Identify the source of your problems; try to determine why the situation exists. You may have budgetary problems, you may face legislative challenges, and you probably need to strengthen your public support—or you may need to work on all three areas.
Where Does Your Music Program Stand?
- Does every student in your schools have access to music instruction?
- Do your schools require music courses for high school graduation?
- Is the curriculum in your schools directed toward appropriate standards?
- Are facilities in place that give each child an opportunity to learn?
- In short, do your schools have a program of good scope and quality?
If your schools meet these basic standards, you will need to work toward maintaining the place of music in the curriculum and toward refining the music program to the point at which it offers every student a path to a lifetime enriched with musical experiences. If not, you will need to plan a strategy that works toward achieving these basic objectives. As a first step, use the following checklist to keep track of which objectives are met—or not met—by your program. (For a more detailed look at the standards to be expected, see MENC’s publication The School Music Program: Description and Standards.)
Here are some basic questions you should ask to find out how healthy your school music program is. If you answer “yes” to all these questions, you need only work to maintain the quality of your program. If you have more than five “no” answers, it is time to get to work in earnest!
District-wide (select yes or no for each item below)
- Is there a music educator who is designated to administer and coordinate the music program?
- Is there a written, standards-based, curriculum in music that leads logically from level to level, elementary through high school?
- Is there sufficient budget to ensure that reasonably new music books and other types of equipment, such as turntables or cassette players, instruments, and electronic keyboards, are available for music instruction?
- Is the music program fully funded through the school district budget?
- Do all students in the school district have equal access—in terms of course offerings, scheduling, and resources—to a quality music education program?
Elementary School (select yes or no for each item below)
- Are all children receiving about 100 minutes of standards-based music instruction each week from a teacher certified in music?
- Are the children being taught a variety of types of music through activities such as singing, listening, and playing simple instruments?
- Do the students have a chance to create music?
Middle/Junior High School (select yes or no for each item below)
- Is there a written, standards-based, curriculum for this level?
- Do all students have the chance to study wind, string, and percussion instruments?
- Are bands, orchestras, and choral groups available for interested and able students?
- Are all students required to take at least one year (or its equivalent) of general music during these grades?
- Are there at least seven periods for instruction in the school day so that students have sufficient time to pursue an interest in music?
- Do the students study a variety of types of music?
High School (select yes or no for each item below)
- Is one year of music or other fine art required for graduation from high school?
- Are bands, orchestras, and choral groups offered in the school day for credit?
- Are courses such as music theory, music appreciation, general music, and guitar and keyboard (applicable to the advanced level standards) offered in the school day for credit?
What Challenges Do You Face?
Analyzing the Budget
If your program needs improvement in staff, equipment, supplies, or facilities, you need to investigate the budget. Keep in mind that the making of a school budget is an extended project. As soon as one year’s budget is completed, work starts on the next. This means that the only way to avoid unpleasant surprises is to be involved in monitoring the budget on a year-round basis. You can find a persuasive set of suggestions for appropriate staffing, facilities and equipment, and curriculum and scheduling in MENC’s Opportunity-to-Learn Standards. To determine the nature of budget problems, ask district officials for a rundown of the budget process. You may also need to obtain the following documents and information:
- The school budget (both the published budget for the current year and the proposed budget for the coming year). Generally, the budget is proposed by the administrators and adopted by the school board after comment is received from the public. It may have to be approved by the electorate, especially when funding depends on the issuance of bonds.
- The school system’s allocation policies, which contain information on what level of funding can be expected by particular schools or by particular programs. Copies of these policies are probably available from the administrators and financial officers of the district’s central office.
- The district’s past financial reports. These reports describe what was actually done with the district’s money. If these documents do not provide the detail you need, you may have to ask for figures from the district’s accounting records.
If you are to make intelligent decisions about what to do, you will have to gather information about the evolving actions of school boards and other decision makers. This information might include reports about proposed change
s in administrative procedures and news about who said what at public meetings. Consider drawing on the following sources:
- Volunteers such as teachers, parents, and others from a cross section of the music community who will attend and report on the meetings of the entities involved. This strategy not only serves to lessen the time required of any one person, it helps get a large number of people involved in your campaign.
- You local PTA or teachers’ professional organization. These groups may already send representatives to attend and report on important meetings; ask them if they would be willing to share the information they gather with you.
- “Insiders” such as sympathetic school board members and supervisors of music.
Here are some questions to help you identify any budget problems that need your attention:
Budget Checklist (select yes or no for each item below)
The nature of the problem:
- Is the budget for your entire school system inadequate?
- Is the music program funded at a lower level than are other curricular programs?
- Does the program of music instruction depend on fundraising efforts by faculty, parents, and students?
The location of the problem:
- Does your problem arise in the budget proposed by district-level administrators?
- Does it come about in administrative fund transfers or call-backs made after adoption of the budget?
- Is it based in the way money is distributed to individual schools or programs as defined in the district’s allocation policies?
- Does it have its roots in the administration of funds by building principals?
- Do the district’s financial reports in recent years show any downward trends in spending for the music program?
Analyzing the Decision-Making Process
Does your music program truly have the informed support of those who make and institute policy? Decide where your support is strongest and where it is weakest—and find out who makes the policy decisions that shape the future of the music program. (You should not attempt to fix blame on any individuals; you should rather identify people and groups that need to be educated about school music and gently pushed to support music in your schools).
Of course, the concept of “support” can be quite complex. Most administrators and board members support the idea of music education, but they may not always act in support of the music program, especially when tough choices must be made. To begin to understand the situation in your area, ask the following questions:
Decision Makers’ Support Checklist (select yes or no for each item below)
- Do the actions of your city, county, or parish administrator show that he or she supports school music?
- Do the actions of your city, county, or parish legislative body generally show support for the music program? (Name your strongest supporters)
- Do the actions of the local school board show support school for music? (Name your strongest supporters)
- Do the actions of the local school administration show support for school music? (Name your strongest supporters)
Gauging Public Support
Your campaign will be directed toward obtaining the goal of a strong music program. The long-term health of your school music program depends in part on the attitude of the public. Does your music program lack public support, or is it facing the erosion of existing support?
Again, “support” can be a difficult thing to pin down. The public may simply not think about the music program until someone brings up the fact that it is in danger.
To begin to understand the breadth of public support that school music commands in your area, determine whether you have the informed and active support of the following groups:
Public Support Checklist (select yes or no for each item below)
- Do the parents in your community support school music? (Name your strongest supporters)
- Does the teachers’ organization support school music? (Name your strongest supporters)
- Do local community organizations support school music? (Name your strongest supporters)
- Does the local business community support school music? (Name your strongest supporters)
- Do teachers of other subjects support school music? (Name your strongest supporters)
- Do the school guidance counselors support school music? (Name your strongest supporters)