Want to Use the New Music Standards in Your Classroom? Take a Lesson (Plan) from NAfME

Whether or not you were one of the hundreds of music teachers who reviewed the new National Standards for Music Education over the past two years, you can use the Standards in your classroom. 

The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards released 2014 National Music Standards in June. The new standards replace the 1994 Standards and represent a definite shift in the ways that music educators’ approach to improving each student’s musical education experience.

The new voluntary Music Standards give educators with a framework for delivering the long-established benefits of music education in both new and traditional ways. They are by design open to a variety of approaches, in a way that is distinct from the potent mix of Common Core State Standards and standardized testing, which has been widely criticized for narrowing student-learning opportunities.

However, music educators wrote the new National 2014 Music Standards for music educators as part of a broad effort with our colleagues in the other arts and they have a student-centered focus that focuses on each educator’s teaching style and unique contributions.

On October 25th and 26th, NAfME will present the “Standards, Assessment, & Evaluation” Preconference at its 2014 National In-Service Conference at the Gaylord Opryland and Resort in Nashville Tennessee.

The Preconference will explore the ways the new standards differ from the 1994 standards, the ways that they serve music education in the era of Common Core State Standards, and the implications of the standards for student assessment and teacher evaluation. Further, the Preconference will help teachers and administrators come to grips with the complexities of linking current curricular focus on Knowledge and Skills to the

Sessions will look at the development of the Standards as well as the practical roll-out of Standards tools and the political context of the tools.

For more information or to register, visit inserviceconference.nafme.org/sessions/standards-assessment-evaluation-preconference/.


The goal of the new Standards is not to impose restrictive rules governing what to do or how to teach, but to provide voluntary, flexible processes and strategies that can be welcomed, implemented, and assessed in every American school district.

Mike Blakeslee, NAfME Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, says that the new 2014 Music Standards:

  • Seek to instill music literacy, emphasizing conceptual understanding, which is a departure from the previous emphasis on knowledge and skills.
  • Reflect the actual processes in which musicians engage. The Standards cultivate a student’s ability to carry out the Three Artistic Processes of Creating, Performing and Responding, along with connecting their musical learning to their lives and their communities. Each process is broken down into steps, or “components,” in a way that is true to music education today. The new standards provide teachers with frameworks that closely match the unique goals of their specialized classes. The standards are presented in a grade-by-grade sequence from pre-K through grade 8, and discrete strands address high-school music classes, such as Ensembles, and Music Composition/Theory, Technology, and the growing field of Harmonizing Instruments.


      Blakeslee says that some teaching methods will not change. “If you want teach your students how to play a chord on the guitar, you will do it the same way,” adding


Read more about the structure of the 2014 Music Standards at nafme.org/my-classroom/standards/. Other resources include:

  • “Opportunity to Learn” Standards that can help you understand the structures that need to be in place to support student success in the standards
  •  Lesson plan database (“My Music Class”)
  • Additional support materials/processes for purchase, including: The Solutions Music Group, powered by NAfME, with consultants ready to help school districts calibrate the standards to their situations. [add link]
  • The NAfME Workbooks for teacher evaluation, which draw on the Model Cornerstone Assessments to help inform the student achievement part of the teacher evaluation equation

An overview of the broader National Core Arts Standards, prepared by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, is online at nationalartsstandards.org/