Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Response from VSB Regarding Elimination of Elementary Band and Strings Programs

Below you will find the response from the VSB to an email sent from the CMEBC regarding the Elementary Band and Strings Program:

On Monday, April 25th, you sent an email to the Vancouver Board of Trustees, outlining your concerns with the proposed elimination of the optional Elementary Band and Strings programs in 44 of our elementary schools.  You also expressed concerns with “the state of elementary music education overall in the VSB, including the band and strings program.”  You had two specific questions that you asked be answered.  Staff have provided the answers to those questions below.

Do you have evidence-based documentation that EVERY student in EVERY elementary school is receiving a quality music education from K-7, and how have you measured this?

Other than report cards, there is no district level mechanism that documents whether or not every student receives music instruction, just as there is not that type of district documentation for any other subject area. What does exist is the BC Ministry of Education’s requirements for curriculum instruction (example: Grade 2 Arts Education curriculum document: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum/arts-education/2), as well as the Ministerial Order for Areas of Instruction which states:

Required Areas Of Study In An Educational Program Order
Each school year a board must offer to all students in kindergarten to grade 7, an educational program that meets all the learning outcomes set out in the applicable educational program guide in

(a) Language Arts
(b) Social Studies,
(c) Mathematics,
(d) Science,
(e) Physical Education,
(f) Fine Arts/Arts Education (Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Arts),
(g) Health and Career Education, and
(h) Daily Physical Activity

There is also the Ministry of Education Reporting Order, which states:

With respect to reporting in Fine Arts, the student progress report must, in relation to the expected learning outcomes set out in the curriculum, include reporting, at least once during the school year, in each of the following specific areas of the curriculum:
(a)  dance,  (b)  drama, (c)  music, and (d)  visual arts.

In addition, teachers are asked to have and share overviews of their year’s teaching plans with their school administrator and parents.  These overviews help to ensure that all subject areas are taught and the concepts covered in a deliberate and thoughtful manner.

It should also be noted that Dr. Overgaard’s 2014-15 survey of Vancouver schools, referred to in the same April 25 email from CMEBC, outlines that 58% of the 77 K-7 schools have trained music specialist in their schools.  Another 18% of these same schools have Music specialists as classroom teachers who teach Music in other teachers’ classes as well as their own.  71% of the schools surveyed rated their Music programs as “good” to “excellent”.

Do you have evidence-based documentation that the generalist teachers responsible for teaching music are capable and comfortable teaching music?

Again, there is no district mechanism to verify that teachers are capable of teaching a specific subject area at the elementary level when they are hired to teach in a regular classroom position.  It is assumed that after having successfully completed the coursework and practica required by University Teacher Education programs, these classroom teachers are ready and able to teach all subject areas at their grade level. When teacher evaluations are conducted, the evaluator (usually the school administrator) will observe the teacher teaching a variety of lessons, and Music can be one of the subject areas observed.

For those teachers who feel that they need additional support in specific curricular areas, including Music, there are a variety of resources that they can access. Support for both Elementary Generalists and Music Specialist Teachers can take place in 4 ways:
·         Professional Development Opportunities on Pro D Days
·         Clinician classroom visits
·         Mentoring by a specialist from another school
·         Involvement with an external organization

Professional Development
Professional Development is the main type of support to music teachers.  Pro D Days are advertised on the website and alternate with support for elementary art and drama workshops.  The February Pro D Day is typically a “music day” with a variety of workshops, opportunities for learning, and keynote speakers.  Workshop titles include:

·         K – 3 Elementary Music: Music making with Song, Play and Movement
·         A Seasonal Celebration of Songs and Activities for Primary Teachers
·         Lifting Primary Voices in Song
·         4 -7 Elementary Music for Generalists: Creating Fun Music
·         Lessons for Intermediate Students
·         K- 7 Elementary Music for Everyone: Music and Movement
·         Music Matters Incorporated
·         Music, Movement and Mindfullness
·         Kodaly Workshop
·         Music, Movement and Mindful Awareness of Overall Musical Experience
·         Music Movement and the Mind
·         Singing Games for Intermediate Generalists

Clinician Classroom visits
Clinicians go to classrooms upon request of the teacher or principal.  Clinicians bring in their own resources or work with commercial resources

Mentoring by a Specialist Teacher From Another School
The mentor will work with the teacher’s class while the teacher is observing or the teacher will observe the mentor teaching his/her own class.  Resources are shared.

Involvement With an External Organization that Provides Support
This type of collaboration usually works on a cost sharing basis and the organization will provide clinicians/artists/programming that involves both the classroom students and teacher in learning.  However the number of schools is limited as only a few can be funded each year.
Examples of organizations that work with generalist teachers:
·         VSO Connects Program
·         Opera in the Schools Program
·         Sarah McLaughlan School of Music
·         UBC Faculty of Education
·         Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra

We appreciate your interest in and support for the Music Education programs in our schools and hope that this information will be helpful to you.


Mike Lombardi