As I got into my car on March 3, 2016, I was singing the words, “On the road again.” This was my third trip to Baton Rouge this week. The week had started with attending the Believe and Prepare Community Meeting at the Louisiana Department of Education. Please see my previous blog about the events that took place during that meeting.
I was especially excited to return to Baton Rouge on Wednesday. I had the privilege of speaking with our First Lady Donna Edwards at the Governor’s Mansion. Mrs. Edwards has served both as a classroom teacher and as a music educator. I enjoyed learning about her best classroom practices, and I can’t wait to try out a music education software program that she recommended. Mrs. Edwards also shared with me her vision for music education in Louisiana. As music is at the heart of our Louisiana culture and history, she believes that we should be setting the standard for arts education in the United States. While she shared information about her plan for elevating the arts in Louisiana, I apprised her of my work on behalf of music education with the Louisiana Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). As I left the meeting, I couldn’t help but feel positive about the future of music education. I also knew that she would be a great source for information and guidance as I move forward with my work.
On Thursday, I again returned to the Louisiana Department of Education for the BESE committee meetings. As the State Teacher of the Year, I am a member of the Educator Effectiveness Committee. I had also been asked to give the BESE Board a report regarding the results of a survey on music education. It had been decided after my presentation in January that the LDOE would conduct a survey regarding k-8 music education in order for us to get a greater understanding of the extent of music in our schools. The districts were asked to answer questions regarding whether music instruction is offered, how many instructional minutes per week, how many certified music teachers in their district, and whether the districts use the state-developed arts curriculum.
In my report, I shared that 55 districts have thus far have responded. Out of those, 50 report that they offer music education while 33 say they meet or exceed the minimum requirement of 60 instructional minutes per week. There are 521 certified music educators employed while 34 districts say they use the state curriculum.
Following this report, I spoke about the steps that the LDOE and I have taken to create a working group of music teachers, school and district administrators, higher education professionals, state music education associations, and representatives from the Office of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. At this time, we are planning for this group to meet three times before June 2016. Our objectives will be to conduct a more in-depth analysis of the needs and best practices in music education. We will report our findings back the BESE board along with our recommendations to the board for measures Louisiana should take to improve music education.
In my conclusion, I invited the board members to attend the meetings for the working group spoke briefly about my discussion with Mrs. Edwards. Just like on Wednesday, I left the meeting feeling optimistic about these steps that have been taken and our journey moving forward. With the help of the LDOE, BESE, Mrs. Edwards, and my music colleagues we will find a way for Louisiana to set the standard for music education in the United States.