Safety Quality Equity
ONE JOB ONE EDUCATOR
I have been growing increasingly concerned with the inequitable offerings of music courses in schools across our district. After learning that there is no plan to offer Choir at Hunt Middle school, I decided to address the issue in an email.
I thought it might be valuable to offer for music staff to “co-sign” this email. I think this would be a better idea than having us all individually write to address this. That said, I do not presume that all would agree with my words or presentation… Join me if you wish, or don’t 😊. After reading my attached draft, if you would like to co-sign, please fill your name and position on THIS FORM.
Peter BriggsBand, Drumline & Piano
LINCOLN HIGH SCHOOL
I am writing this morning to ask some questions and engage a larger discussion around our district’s plan for systemic support of the arts.
I felt a mix of concern and devastation when I learned that the music positions posted for Hunt Middle School included a 0.6 position for band/orchestra and no position for choir. Granted, I do not know the long-range plan for program growth at Hunt specifically or if positions may change. I have raised similar concerns with other inequitable course offerings at various schools around our district. This raises issues for me in a few areas, and I’m very curious to know your thoughts.
TPS affords building principals a large amount of discretion for allocating FTE. This enables buildings to be individualized, innovative and to meet the specific needs of their community. However, skill-based subjects that sequence learning K-12 require a connection and continuity between schools. For example, it does not serve students well to have a middle school offering multiple years of French feeding a high school that does not offer French. Likewise, at Lincoln, our administration sees choir as a core part of our Arts offerings and sincerely struggles to maintain our choral program when Stewart and Giaudrone do not offer choir. What is the wisdom in offering musical theater or dance at a middle school (as I understand Hunt MS will do), when there is no support for these programs at a nearby high school?
With equity as a core value of our district, how do we justify the decision to have such variance in core subjects between schools? Our current inequity provides unfair advantage to our students that live in a neighborhood with schools offering sequential programming across middle and high schools. These students have greater opportunities and more access to the Arts. Students without these programs are limited in their ability to develop proficiency over multiple years, less likely to pursue arts education post-secondary and unprepared to audition for collegiate programs or scholarships.
What we need in TPS is a shared understanding of Core Arts Offerings and a recognition of Auxiliary Arts Electives. In 2015, Amy Eveskcige, then the Executive Director for Teaching and Learning, convened a team to look at equity in our district’s music offerings and to define “non-negotiables that students must have access to and cannot be eliminated through principal discretion.” Here is her original statement of purpose for the group, including background, current practice (at the time), purpose and next-steps. Part way through that work, Marie Verhaar joined our district and continued the conversation. Here is the document that represented our competed work, including the statement for visual arts, band, choir and orchestra that “a core arts program in secondary schools includes a minimum of two levels of instruction in each discipline at each school.”
When the “core arts subjects” are strong at each building, it affords the ability to offer auxiliary programs such as guitar, pottery, drumline, piano, print-making, music theater, etc. This structure of uniform core and customized auxiliary courses lays a foundation of equity across our district and provides space for schools to individualize their focus. These auxiliary programs thrive when offered in
conjunction with successful core offerings. Individual students and the school as a whole benefit from the skills developed in the core classes and expand on these in the auxiliary courses. When offered at the expense or in place of core offerings, auxiliary classes become isolated programs without a benefit from or greater connection to schools. In such cases, the health of all offerings suffers, and it becomes more difficult to meet the needs of our students and recruit / retain highly qualified instructors.
A FEW QUESTIONS: