Elementary School Music

“Blueprint 2.0”

Posted in NYC DOE Resources by P. Conrad on December 20, 2009

In the spring of 2008 the Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects published a revised second edition of its Blueprint for Teaching & Learning in the Arts for music.

There’s a link for teachers to download the document as a .pdf file from the DOE website, but hundreds of  printed copies were distributed to music teachers and principals when it was first published. A quick peek at the new Music Blueprint shows great improvements both in content and design. (Although the font sizes are still small, the new layout makes it much easier to use.)

The Blueprint is meant to guide the teaching of music across 14 years of early childhood and young adulthood, including college prep. It’s based on the idea that music cannot be taught in isolation from the rest of the curriculum, and that along with performance and aesthetic appreciation, teaching and learning of music must emphasize music’s role in our daily lives and communities, including the world of work. Nearly half the bulk of the new edition is comprised of material excerpted from another document that was distributed to music teachers several years ago, Music From the Inside Out: A Resource Guide for Music Teachers. This consists of extensive essays compiled by WNYC’s John Schaefer on music through history and around the world.There’s also a pretty extensive list of resources, including books and recordings as well as on-line materials.


Since the Blueprint is a forward-looking document, this second edition is still an early stage in in its development. And this is made pretty clear early on, on page 9, in the introduction: “The new plan. . . will, as it evolves, provide clear and rigorous forms of assessment based on the best practices offered in the field.” The phrase “as it evolves” suggests that there is more work to be done. There are examples of “Wraparounds” — templates for planning lessons based on a piece of musical repertoire so as to include all five of the Blueprint strand. These pages do refer to assessment. However, evaluating learning outcomes is not dealt with very directly in this document.

The Blueprint is not the place to find a critical look at the fundamental problem faced by anyone who wants to make broad improvements in the teaching and learning of music in New York City’s public schools: scheduling and staffing are entirely up to the principals in each school, and these decisions are based on fluctuating enrollment and class sizes. Many schools cannot guarantee every child will have weekly music instruction throughout each of his or her seven years in elementary school. In some schools, one out of the four kindergarten classes will simply do without music; sometimes the whole fourth grade will have two science classes per week — at the expense of one weekly period for music. In addition, some New York City students change schools several times during their elementary careers.

Under these circumstances, consistent achievement (and assessments) for second and fifth graders throughout a given school, or across the whole city will be wildly impractical and difficult to ensure. Since the Blueprint document isn’t the place to address this problem, readers are left alone with the question: “What will my students learn, and how will I know they are learning it?”


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  1. […] curriculum guide Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts (it’s a PDF file, heavy in color and graphics: not practical for downloading and printing). […]

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