- National Standards for Music Education
- NY State Arts Standards for Music
- NYC Blueprint for Teaching & Learning in the Arts
For NBPTS standards for teachers, see the Professional Development page.
About the Standards
National Standards for Music Education
1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
3. Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.
4. Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
5. Reading and notating music.
6. Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.
7. Evaluating music and music performances.
8. Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, & disciplines outside the arts.
9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.
. . . That first item brings to mind a wonderful image: a young person who is “singing, alone and with others.” The existing National Standards for the Arts, New York State standards for the arts, and the NYC Department of Education’s “Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts” are all based on a single very important notion: that every child has the right to a rich, complete education, regardless of his or her race, or social class, or gender, or ability. They are written in an effort to guarantee this right, so it won’t be overlooked as city and state school systems organize their budgets and educational programs.
They’re directly useful for almost everyone involved: even with their tortured academic language, our national and state standards and the NYC Blueprint provide teachers with valuable reference points and opportunities for thinking about what we do each day. Yet two questions keep nagging if you actually sit and read (or skim through) these documents: who wrote this stuff? and then, in what school did they envision all of this activity taking place?
“Accountability” is a favorite word in a lot of current writing on education. Balanced literacy calls for kids to engage in accountable talk, and schools, supervisors, and teachers are meant to be accountable for what children learn — or what they don’t. (The current mania for high-stakes testing is a symptom of this: education policy is being shaped by people trained in law and business administration, so the numerical data can take on a nearly mystical importance.) The standards help establish exactly what is expected of everyone.
Standards emphasize two basic curriculum categories: content (meaning what will be presented to the learners) and achievement (meaning what the learner will know and be able to do as a result). The NYC Blueprint calls these “subject-based curricula” and “outcome-based curricula.” Performance standards (or benchmarks) specify the abilities a child can be expected to achieve at the end of a predetermined course of study.
Below are links to some of the documents that make up our national and NY State arts standards as they affect the teaching of music in pre-kindergarten through 4th or 5th grades. In some cases, detailed descriptions of the standards can be downloaded as PDF files and printed out.
The first is a 27-page .pdf file of another colorful and beautifully-designed DOE document that teachers and administrators and others can use to reflect on the practice of teaching and learning music in their schools (click the picture to download it). This link is to the Music Reflection Tool for elementary schools, but there are equivalents for upper grades as well.
It’s organized into four areas:
- Organizational Practice: School Environment: including the school’s physical resources/space, staff/instructional time, teacher support, arts data use
- Instructional Practice: curriculum, teaching and learning
- Student Outcomes: student engagement, demonstrated arts skills, knowledge and understanding
- Arts & Cultural Service Providers: school’s use of in-school residencies, exhibitions and performances
The Music Reflection Tool is made available for your download and perusal from the Office of Arts & Special Projects webpages, where you can also download the Blueprint for Teaching & Learning in Music, and learn about upcoming professional development events.
Also available at the O.A.S.P. site is a similar document, Viewing, Assessing, and Supporting Effective Arts Instruction that provides checklists and rubrics of what arts instruction should look like (click the picture to download it as a .pdf file).
It includes four pages specifically on music instruction, noting the kinds of things that should be evident to anyone looking at the lesson plan, or observing the students or the teacher. Each page states in bold type that “throughout the study of a piece of music, connections to all five strands of the Blueprint should be made, thus informing students’ understanding and performance of the repertoire.”
The ongoing re-organization of New York City’s public school system has had some dramatic moments in the past year. One of these came when it was announced that Project Arts funding would no longer be earmarked for arts education, but would simply be a part of each principal’s budget, to be spent as he or she deemed best for the school. [There's an interesting update on this policy: See Richard Kessler's December 2009 blog post on the restoration of dedicated arts funding.]
There was an outcry from people who feared many principals given the choice might divert that money to literacy and math instruction for children who were not meeting standards. Enough that then-Chancellor Joel Klein saw fit to issue a special Chancellor’s Message on the Arts in the February 27, 2007 Principals Weekly re-affirming his commitment to arts education for all children.
Then, on June 23, 2007, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled a further measure to ensure that arts education will not be threatened during the undergoing re-organization of schools. The program — called “ArtsCount”— was given a sketchy description in the The New York Times the following day: it is basically a system of accountability for arts education that can be applied to schools and principals as a part of the overall school quality reviews and school “report cards.” The Department of Education’s announcement provides more detail.
Meanwhile, the Office of Arts and Special Projects issued a scary-looking document that sifted existing New York State regulations and the City’s own standards to come up with a formula for what constitutes acceptable levels of arts education, in terms of instructional hours distributed over the course of a school year.
Following is the OASP’s description of the New York State requirements for arts education at the elementary levels in New York City schools. Click here to download the full MS Word document (2 pp.).
NYSED Guidelines Grades 1 – 3
“In grades 1-3, 20% of the weekly time spent in school should be allocated to dance, music, theatre and visual arts” (Summary of Arts Provisions, pg 3)
In New York City, this is the equivalent of approximately 186 hours throughout the entire school year allocated equally between dance, music, theater, and visual arts, with approximately 46.5 hours per year in each discipline.
(186 Instructional Days/Year; 5 instructional hours/day = 930 total instructional hours/year in grades 1 -4. State guidelines recommend 20% of total instructional time to be spent in the arts for grades 1 – 3, which is the equivalent of 186 hours/year.)
NYSED Guidelines Grade 4
“In grade 4, 10% of the weekly time spent in school should be allocated to dance, music, theatre and visual arts” (Summary of Arts Provisions, pg 4)
In New York City, this is the equivalent of approximately 93 hours throughout the entire school year equally allocated between dance, music, theater, and visual arts, with approximately 23 hours per year in each discipline.
(186 Instructional Days/Year; 5 instructional hours/day = 930 total instructional hours/year. State guidelines recommend 10% of total instructional time to be spent in the arts for grade 4, which is the equivalent of 93 hours per year.)
The complete national standards in music (PreK-12) are available as a 48-page softcover book, The School Music Program: A New Vision (MENC, 1994). ISBN 1-56545-039-6 ($19.00). Or you can read them online at the MENC site. They include the following:
Opportunity-to-Learn Standards for Music Instruction: Grades PreK-12
Opportunity-to-Learn Standards are like a recipe for some professionals’ idea of the ideal learning environment. They are “intended to specify the physical and educational conditions necessary in the schools to enable every student, with sufficient effort, to meet the voluntary national content and achievement standards in music.” Here are wonderful lists of instruments and audio equipment, and measures of how often and for how long classes ought to meet. (The OTL also contains the seeds of the NYC Blueprint: one line reads: “The music curriculum is described and outlined in a series of sequential and articulated curriculum guides for each grade level.”)
Performance standards will be more familiar to people who witnessed the widespread use of New York State’s ELA and Math Standards in 1999. A single student response (or performance) can be keyed to a particular standard, to show where it reflects that bit of curriculum. Here’s where teachers can find specific assessment activities for measuring a child’s abilities, with reference to each standard, at any of three levels: “Basic,” “Proficient,” or “Advanced,” depending on how consistently the child can keep a steady beat, or identify different musical genres (for example).
There are four Arts Standards designated by New York State Department of Education. Each link below is for the relevant standard as it applies to teaching and learning about music: