Visualizing the new standards

On June 30th, the drafts of the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards was released. It’s a major revision to the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education. I’m curious to see how the new standards progress as they go through the revision stages, but for now I’ve got a few critiques to share.

First, the strength of the 1994 Standards was in their simplicity. Nine basic guidelines for creating a rich, well-rounded music experience for our students. This draft of new K-8 general music standards is over ten pages. That’s a lot of information to digest, and that’s before we even get to standards for performing ensembles and other strands. Simplicity and adaptability should be the priorities, so that these standards can be accessible to music teachers in vastly different situations.

The draft as it stands right now is based on Scott Shuler’s concept of the ‘Three Artistic Processes‘, listed as creating, performing and responding. I don’t take issue with those three processes, but I do find it strange that they are kept separate when laying out the standards. The reality of music is that there is often a great deal of overlap between Creator, Performer, and Responder. In many cases, one single entity will be engaged in all three processes simultaneously.

It’s important to show the relationship between these standards, especially if they could be used by a non-musician as part of our evaluations. Part of the richness of music is the complex way in which all aspects interact with each other. We musicians can take our understanding of that concept for granted, but we can’t safely assume that a non-musician will have that same understanding.

I’d like to see a different visual representation of the Standards than what we currently have. I’ve created a simple graphic that could help a non-musician understand some of these relationships and redundancies. Understand that it is by no means complete, it’s just an example of the type of visual representation that could be beneficial when it comes to understanding the standards and how they interact.

That graphic represents just a small number of the ways in which different musical experiences can intersect and interact. It can definitely be adapted to include a greater level of detail. Something like that visual could be a very helpful tool to accompany the new Standards.

One Last Question to Consider

There has been a lot of grumbling about the legitimacy of the Common Core Standards. Do we want to align our arts standards with an education movement that has involved minimal educator input? Do we want to pin ourselves to a framework that may be deeply flawed?