As I was walking into the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) yesterday, I began to think of the song, “Anything Can Happen” from Mary Poppins the Musical. Two months ago, I had learned that “Anything Can Happen” at a meeting for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). In the five minute break between committee meetings, I had been approached by our Louisiana State Superintendent of Education, John White. He wanted to hear about my view regarding the state of music education in Louisiana. Following this, we scheduled a conference call to discuss this topic at greater length. This conversation resulted in the opportunity to speak during the Academic Goals and Instructional Improvement Committee meeting for the BESE board.
Before my presentation began, Mr. White spoke about the role of the Louisiana State Teacher of the Year. In addition to serving on the Educator Effectiveness Committee, he hoped that the presentation would lead to even greater involvement for future State Teachers of the Year. He also pointed out that we need to take a deeper look at our music programs in Louisiana as music serves a vital role in the culture of our state.
For each meeting, the BESE board members receive an agenda with details regarding the items that will be discussed. For my part, I had submitted results of recent research studies regarding music education and academic achievement. I also included a list of items from the “Every Student Succeeds Act” that are important for BESE to consider in regards to music education.
After referring to the items in the agenda, I began by sharing my own story of how music education helped me to overcome speech and hearing difficulties due to frequent ear infections as a child. Next, I spoke about why I teach at the elementary level and the lasting impact elementary music has on a child’s life. I also pointed out that access to elementary music programs varies greatly throughout the state. I concluded with asking the board questions ranging from the number of schools that offer elementary music programs to the barriers for implementing music programs. In the end, the board decided that it would need more information. They will be asking the LDOE to conduct an assessment of the elementary music programs in our state. We will then use the results of this study to help us identify the measures that need to be taken to improve the quality and degree of our elementary music programs.
While I was excited to hear the board members vote to take this next step, I was elated by what followed. Several of the board members spoke about their support of music education. Mr. Lurie Thomason even spoke highly about his music teacher from when he was in fourth grade. Kira Orange Jones and Dr. Holly Boffy also expressed their pleasure in seeing the State Teacher of the Year take such an active role.
My favorite line in “Anything Can Happen” says, “If you reach for the stars, all you get are the stars… If you reach for the heavens, you get the stars thrown in.” I know that I am reaching “for the heavens” with aiming for all children in Louisiana to have access to elementary music programs. However, I think yesterday that I might have gotten “the stars thrown in”. I am truly excited about the direction we are taking with music education in Louisiana and the role of the Louisiana State Teacher of the Year.