This page is designed to provide periodic updates on state-wide music advocacy issues, as provided by PMEA Advocacy Chair, Richard Victor. The most important supporters of the Arts are you, the students and parents who are actually involved in music programs.
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June 10, 2008 - Graduation Comptetency Exams
EDITOR'S NOTE: Have you sent an email or a letter to your legislator yet? There are bills currently in both the House and Senate which would block the implementation of the Graduation Competency Exams. If these exams become reality they would almost certainly result in a further narrowing of the curriculum and a reduction in the amount of music education a child would receive in Pennsylvania. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN! If you have not sent an email to your State Senator and State Representative supporting the legislation which would block the exams, please send one TODAY! If you have already sent one - send another! There is just one week left in the public comment period. Take action and let your voice be heard. - - - RV
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Senate committee trying to block exit exam move
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
By Tracie Mauriello, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG -- A state Senate committee is trying to block a move to require students to pass exit exams before receiving high school diplomas.
The Education Committee yesterday voted 10-1 on a bill that would give the Legislature exclusive authority to add statewide graduation requirements.
The move is in response to the State Board of Education's plan to require exit exams in English, math, science and social studies. Beginning with the class of 2014, passage would be required before students could graduate. Students who fail would have several chances to pass throughout their high school years.
Supporters say the requirement would make diplomas meaningful because it guarantees that graduates have met minimum academic standards.
Opponents, including Sen. James Rhoades, chairman of the Education Committee, say the exams are expensive, that they are unfair to smart students who have test anxiety and that school districts should have the authority to decide their own graduation requirements.
"I understand testing could put increased pressure on kids and it could result in better behavior in school and more work, but kids who want to be successful are already doing that," said Mr. Rhoades, R-Schuylkill. The others will end up dropping out of school rather than face tests they find difficult, he said.
Michael Race, spokesman for the Department of Education, said the committee's vote is an attempt to derail a regulatory process that has worked for years.
It is unclear when the Senate bill might come to a vote on the floor, but Mr. Rhoades wants it to be on the table during budget talks. Gov. Ed Rendell's proposed budget includes $15 million in state funding to begin creating the tests.
Mr. Rhoades said that money would be better spent on instruction than testing.
The state Board of Education passed the exit-exam requirement in January. It is now before the Intergovernmental Regulatory Review Commission. The commission is charged with ensuring new regulations don't conflict with existing ones.
April 30, 2008 - Foundation Names the 100 Best Communities for Music Education
Last spring I sent out a link to an audio file of Tom Chapin's wonderful satire about No Child Left Behind.There is now an entire Web site based on the song! The site includes a video, advocacy links, and useful facts. Check it out at:
APRIL 22, 2008
EDITOR'S NOTE: Reprinted below are two articles reporting on the
successful advocacy effort of a coalition of music teachers,
students, parents, and community members in the Somerset School
district. Their effort kept the focus on what students would lose by
the proposed decision and involved large numbers of voters in support
of their position - two critical components of effective advocacy.
Congratulations! - - -RV
Parents work to save the music in Somerset
By RICK KAZMER
Daily American Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008 12:50 AM EDT
Many of the close to 200 people who crowded into the Somerset junior
high cafeteria Tuesday did so with the same intent — to prevent a
music teaching position from being eliminated.
District officials are considering not replacing retiring music
teacher Herb McDowell. That would leave the music department with
five teachers to fill a schedule that used to be taught by six.
“We have a dilemma,” high school Principal Mark Gross said to the
capacity crowd that included students lining the walls. “We do not
want to eliminate any music program or harm any music program.”
Gross said five teachers could fill the six-teacher schedule.
“Every time there is a retirement, it is our obligation to put forth
two scenarios,” Gross said.
Those scenarios are replacing or not replacing the retiring staff
member, he said. Officials said a decision could be made during
Monday’s board meeting.
One of McDowell’s responsibilities was directing the marching band.
Jason June has been a long-term substitute for McDowell, who has been
on sick leave. Officials said June will not be hired as a music
teacher but could be considered for the band director position, which
is a separate job.
June has been filling in as marching band director since McDowell
went on sick leave.
If June does not fill the band director position, district officials
may be forced to hire a part-time director from outside the district.
Many in attendance Tuesday said they feel that is a mistake.
“The marching band is an important part of the community as a whole,”
said Leslie deVries, who represented the band boosters. “We need
adequate leadership and someone who is invested in the community.”
Along with declining enrollment, officials cited financial gain as a
reason not to fill the position. Superintendent David Pastrick
previously said the cost of filling an unneeded position is about
$450,000 over a seven-year period.
He said it was the obligation of administrative staff to be good
stewards of the taxpayers’ money.
As a taxpayer, former school board member John Coleman said he is
sympathetic with the view to go forward with five music teachers.
“It is intolerable as a taxpayer to have overstaffing in the music
department,” Coleman said.
Coleman said declining enrollment causes a need for adjustments.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education projects Somerset’s
enrollment to drop by about 300 students by the 2011-12 school year.
“School enrollment has been decreasing,” he said. “Adjustments have
to be made along the way. That often necessitates tough decisions
that please some and displease others.”
When teachers resigned or retired in the past, teachers in other
departments rose to the challenge of updating their skills to teach
other subjects, Coleman said.
“The programs have enhanced,” he said. “Should we expect our music
teachers to rise to the challenge?”
Others came forward with the opinion that the music department can
only decline if the teaching staff is cut.
“I truly, honestly, believe you are making a huge mistake,” parent
Kim Gibson said. “The music program is one of the district’s jewels;
please, just look at it again.”
Gibson said it may be hard for five teachers to complete the
requirements of six.
“On paper you can match the schedules up to five teachers,” he said.
“They may be teaching things they have not taught for years.”
Gross, who was speaking on behalf of the administration, said a
decision will be made after long discussions.
“Music does enhance what we do; that’s why we don’t want to lose it,”
he said. “Whatever the board decides to do, the administration is
prepared to make it work. Music will thrive in Somerset.”
If music does not thrive in Somerset, many students may stand to suffer.
“Music isn’t just an extracurricular activity,” student Laura Beachy
said. “For some, it’s their life.”
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Somerset school board votes to replace music teacher
By RICK KAZMER
Daily American Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 22, 2008 6:37 AM EDT
Somerset school board members made a decision Monday that was music
to the ears of the more than 100 people inside the high school
In a 7 to 2 vote, the board decided to maintain six music teachers by
replacing Herb McDowell, who is retiring.
The decision culminates weeks of efforts by community members to
persuade officials to replace McDowell.
The board is to make a recommendation to fill the position during the
Jason June, who has been a long-term substitute for McDowell, may be
a likely full-time replacement.
“I am glad they took the time to think it through,” said Debbie
Kowatch, who had a child go through the district’s music program. “I
am glad they made the decision to carry on the excellence.”
The board adjourned at 6:35 p.m. for an executive session. While the
members met privately, singers from the choral group Counter-Act
performed for the crowd.
About two hours later, the board returned and cast their votes.
“This is a budgetary issue,” said board member James Cascio, who
voted against hiring a replacement. “I am not against music; I am in
favor of making sensible decisions that can be justified.”
Cascio cited state and federal laws such as Act 1 and the No Child
Left Behind Act that influence how school district officials form
“I cannot justify hiring another person,” he said. “We can’t look at
this outside the context of other pressures on our budget.”
Cascio said when the board makes a decision to hire a teacher it
could be a decision that costs millions of dollars and lasts for
“We have a limited budget,” he said. “We have a lot of people who
want their particular programs to stay the same.”
In past meetings officials have cited declining enrollment and saving
money as reasons for eliminating the music teacher position.
Officials said $450,000 could be saved over a seven year period by
dropping the position.
“The administrative team recommended five teachers,” superintendent
David Pastrick said before the roll call vote. “All programs will
(with five music teachers) be covered by highly qualified state
certified teachers. We stand by that.”
Some community members, including parent Kim Gibson, have previously
voiced concern that the music program would decline with five music
In a previous board meeting on the subject, Gibson asked board
members to consider the consequences that down-sizing the department
“I want to thank the school board for having the integrity to
reexamine the issue,” he said. “It speaks volumes for how seriously
the board takes the issue.”
Board members may now have to do some work on their budget to account
for the sixth music teacher.
Kowatch said she is aware the decision may affect the budget.
“The music program is exceptional here,” she said. “They will have to
take the time to make the budget work.”
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April 4, 2008
PMEA is currently featured on the home page of www.supportmusic.com/
If you have never visited this site . . . now is the time! It is the web site I regularly recommend to PMEA members to find relevant advocacy materials and is the best source for information and advice for dealing with a music education crisis in the schools.
I encourage all of you to familiarize yourself with this valuable resource.
April 1, 2008 - National Arts Advocacy Day!
Today, hundreds of dedicated arts supporters from across the country have come together in Washington, DC for National Arts Advocacy Day, a united effort to tell Capitol Hill how important culture is to our communities, how much arts education means to our children, and how much the arts improve our daily lives. 87 National CoSponsors have helped shape this united arts message to Congress.
For the second consecutive year, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the arts in conjunction with Arts Advocacy Day. Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA) has again asked Americans for the Arts to exclusively assemble a national panel that will highlight the contributions the arts provide for our country. We are very pleased that the President & CEO Robert Lynch will be joined by several other national leaders in the arts, including actor/director Robert Redford and musician John Legend, to testify at the hearing.
Last year advocates sent out over 4,300 messages to 445 Capitol Hill offices within hours, greatly increasing the visibility of the arts supporters visiting with their Members that day! We hope to have that kind of impact again this year.
Thank you for your continued support of the arts!
March 20, 2008 - Research Study
STUDY REVEALS TEENS' STRONG COMMITMENT TO MUSIC AND MUSIC MAKING
New research reveals the meaning and importance of music participation in the lives of teens.
The NAMM Foundation recently announced the results of a recently published research study by Patricia Shehan Campbell, Ph.D. of the University of Washington as part of the Foundation’s Sounds of Learning research initiative.
The study, titled “Adolescents’ Expressed Meanings of Music in and out of School,” was based on responses by 1,155 teens who submitted student essays to Teen People magazine as part of an Online contest. Throughout their essays, students expressed their thoughts toward learning and playing music and revealed that they value music making as a central aspect of their identities.
The findings include:
*Playing music provides a sense of belonging for teens
*Making music provides the freedom for teens to just be themselves; to be different; to be something they thought they could never be; to be comfortable and relaxed in school and elsewhere in their lives
*Music helps adolescents release or control emotions and helps coping with difficult situations such as peer pressure, substance abuse, pressures of study and family, the dynamics of friendships and social life, and the pain of loss or abuse
*Teens believe developing musical skills and performance is important since it paves the way to musical opportunities as skills develop
*Teens long for more variety and options for making music in school, including the expansion to instruments and technology used in popular music
*Adolescents are genuinely committed to their instruments and their school ensembles because they love to be involved in these musical and social groups
*Teens believe that music is an integral part of American life, and that music reflects American culture and society
*Teens feel that playing music teaches self discipline such as “there are payoffs if you practice and stick with something”
*Adolescents are of the opinion that playing music diminishes boundaries between people of different ethnic backgrounds, age-groups and social interests
*Teens associate playing music with music literacy, listening skills, motor ability, eye-hand coordination and heightened intellectual capabilities.
“This study outlines what music and music making means to teens—that it helps define them as they grow up, it gives them purpose and meaning, and contributes to their success in school and in life,” said Joe Lamond, president and CEO, NAMM. “From what we have learned from this study, and others, it’s clear that music is essential to a complete education for all children, so why would anyone anywhere ever consider reducing support for music education and denying access and opportunity to our nation’s children?”
“We will do well to listen to what teens tell us about music as a common need and a constant presence in their lives,” Campbell said. “Music is their social glue—a bridge for building acceptance and tolerance for people of different ages and cultural circumstances. Music provides opportunities in school for teens’ engagement as performers, composers, and intelligent listeners, and these activities and qualities appear to be deeply meaningful to them. For teens who are desperately seeking relevance, musical study may give them the balanced experience they require.”
The analysis was funded by the NAMM Foundation as part of its Sounds of Learning initiative, a program devoted to studying the associated learning benefits of making music. Campbell conducted the study with Claire Connell of the University of Washington and Amy Beegle of Pacific Lutheran University. The findings were published in the Fall 2007 issue of the Journal for Research in Music Education.
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March 18, 2008
EDITORS NOTE: Here is a recent editorial that appeared in the Seattle
October 3, 2007 - Music Teacher Wins PA Teacher of the Year Award
EDITOR'S NOTE: Congratulations to David Woten, Jr for this honor! All music advocates should take special note of what the AP reporter writes in the last two sentences of this press release. - - RV
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Music teacher wins 2008 PA Teacher of the Year
By MARTHA RAFFAELE
AP Education Writer
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pittsburgh-area middle school teacher who dramatically increased student participation in his school's music program during his career was named Pennsylvania's 2008 Teacher of the Year on Tuesday.
David Woten Jr., 38, who teaches in the North Allegheny School District, was selected from a field of 12 finalists. He will represent Pennsylvania in the national Teacher of the Year competition in Washington, D.C., in the spring.
The Carson Middle School teacher oversees the sixth- and seventh-grade chorus and teaches eighth-grade general music. He said he was inspired to become an educator by teachers he had as youngster in the Ambridge School District, and that he chose music because he recognized it was his strongest talent.
"It was something I was successful at early," Woten said.
Woten earned a bachelor's degree from Slippery Rock University in 1991 and a master's from Duquesne University in 1996. He has spent his entire 16-year teaching career at the middle school, where the number of students enrolled in the sixth and seventh grade music elective classes has grown from 35 to more than 250 during his tenure.
Woten was nominated by middle school principal Brian Miller, who said he also plays a key role as a mentor to new hires and to student teachers who are assigned to his classroom.
"His impact on learning is incredible," Miller said.
One of his former students, Amy Mencini, recalled that on her first day in his classroom, Woten greeted students with a song and a huge smile as he stood by the doorway.
He kept a positive attitude, even when students were having a bad day or struggling to learn a difficult composition, said Mencini, now a 16-year-old high school sophomore.
"Being the wise teacher that he is, he used his energetic ways and creativity to help a large group of kids, all at different levels of musical talent, to achieve what we thought were unattainable goals," she said.
In the classroom, Woten said he tries to go beyond merely teaching music and help students relate what they learn to other subjects and to life skills they will need to succeed.
Woten said he tells parents that if their children "can stand up and sing alone in front of their classmates, going to a job interview's easy."
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Editor's Note: Presidential Primary Candidates Biden, Clinton, Dodd,
Editor's Note: Here is a nice "non-controversial" bit of legislation from our General Assembly. Is your representative listed below? If so, how about sending them a quick thank you email for being part of this? - - RV
June 26, 2007 - Authors urge Lawmakers to rethink federal testing and accountability requirements
EDITOR'S NOTE: A Joint Organizational Statement included a specific concern about narrowing curriculum and instruction to focus on test preparation and emphasized the need for richer academic learning. As mentioned below, the Joint Statement has now been signed by 136 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, labor and civic organizations representing more than 50 million members. Those organizations include the American Music Therapy Association, Americans for the Arts, and most major education organizations. Follow the link below to see the complete listing. MENC is not on the list - - - RV* * *
Expert Panel on Assessment Offers Principles, Recommendations for Lawmakers Rewriting "No Child Left Behind"
A panel of national education experts released a report (June 14, 2007) on outlining guiding principles and recommendations for lawmakers rewriting the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning calls for replacing the one-shot tests used to impose sanctions under NCLB with multiple measures that better support high-quality teaching and increased student achievement.
"This report aims to fix serious flaws in No Child Left Behind while preserving its laudable goals," said Dr. James Pellegrino, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. "Developing fair and helpful assessment systems will encourage student learning across the curriculum instead of narrowing instruction to a few tested subjects.
"Our recommendations reflect the reality that a rigid 'one-size-fits-all' approach to accountability does not work," added panel member Dr. Brian Gong, Executive Director of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment. "They would lead to creation of high-quality assessment systems that use a rich range of evidence to help schools improve, not just test scores to label them passing or failing."
Among the guiding principles in Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning:
"These principles recognize that we must combine research, fairness and common sense to create assessment systems that are responsive to the increasing number of students with special needs in schools today," explained Dr. Alba Ortiz Professor of Special Education and Director of the Office of Bilingual Education at the University of Texas, Austin. "We would never consider teaching students in English and then giving them exams in French to evaluate the quality of schools. Yet, testing all students in English, even if they are just learning the language, is now common practice."
"Assessment can be a powerful tool to promote learning but only if the information gained can be used first to inform teaching," concluded Dr. Pat Roschewski, Director of Statewide Assessment in Nebraska. "If used appropriately assessment can also provide accountability for that learning. At the same time, resources must be devoted to assuring that all teachers are prepared to provide quality learning experiences."
The nine-member Expert Panel on Assessment was convened by the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA), a group working to implement the Joint Organizational Statement on the NCLB Act. The Joint Statement has now been signed by 136 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, labor and civic organizations representing more than 50 million members.
"This report offers solutions to key FEA concerns about NCLB, including AYP, one-shot tests, and unhelpful sanctions, by promoting reasonable improvement requirements, multiple measures, and support for schools," said Dr. Monty Neill, co-Executive Director of FairTest: the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, who chairs the FEA. "It is a valuable complement to FEA's earlier report, Redefining Accountability: Improving Student Learning by Building Capacity http://www.edaccountability.org/Release_011907.html. Together, the reports offer policymakers and other education stakeholders a roadmap for overhauling NCLB."
Members of the Expert Panel on Assessment and leaders of the FEA have delivered copies of Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning to members of the Senate and House education committees at briefings scheduled last week.