UPDATE: I came across this video on Facebook recently, and thought that it summed up this issue well.
Donna Williams Browning recently read my article on my concerns surrounding education reform. She reached out to me via email, and graciously agreed to supply a guest post. I think you may find her experience all too familiar.
I’d love to hear your take on education reform. What does it look like from where you are?
We have to improve our standardized test scores.
That’s what teachers hear repeatedly in public schools today. Enough times that eventually you begin to groan at yet another training session. Formative assessment, differentiation, test and retest so our AYP shows results. It has become the entire focus of the school year.
When I started teaching in the early eighties, I did not think about standardized tests on the first day of school, or constantly test my children to make sure they were ready for the “big test.” I did not talk to my parents at curriculum night about how everything I do is geared toward their child’s performance on the test. As the year progressed, I did know their strengths and weaknesses by carefully evaluating their progress and adjusting my instruction as necessary.
The thing is, I fail to see the success of what is being done currently to educate a child to become a well-functioning member of society. I do see children who take tests so often they are almost desensitized to them, therefore when the “real” one comes along, it has been reduced to just another test.
Strangely, there is much research available that proves that music education produces significant increases in learning. A study performed at UCLA over ten years of 25,000 students showed musicians scored higher on tests, regardless of socioeconomic status. Also, the study of music helps underachieving students, makes better math students, and ultimately students who study music score higher on their SAT’s. Wouldn’t it make sense to increase the amount of music programs in schools knowing this? You would think so.
Instead, last year, music teachers had to use fifteen to twenty minutes of their class for students to write to increase literacy. As if what they do in their class is not something that supports learning in any way.
Our education system is broken. It is driving teachers from the profession in droves. Not poor teachers. Those who care about their students, who know their students better than any test results, who adjust their teaching constantly because that is what you do. Teachers with years of experience are being told they are teaching the wrong way, and need to start all over, and learn how to really teach. Evaluations demand that teachers be on their toes and have a lesson prepared in order to show what a fabulous teacher you are. Focus is not on students, but showing off.
Redirect for me. I have retired from classroom teacher to become a music instructor.
My personal experience as a musician tells me there is no better way to bring fulfillment to my life and others than to share the pleasure I have discovered through music. At the end of the day, I will not have to wonder if my students will be proficient or advanced.
A parent recently told me as they enrolled their child in my class, “I enjoyed school as a child, but I would kill for my music teacher.” Maybe that’s extreme, but at least that person knew the value of music education.
Donna Williams Browning is a native of Nashville, Tennessee, and a graduate of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She has taught in elementary schools for 23 years, until retiring from Shelby County Schools in May 2014. She is now beginning a new career teaching class piano, and has more time to spend with her family including her two granddaughters, ages 8 and 2. Follow her on Twitter ; and find her on Facebook here.