California Music Educators Association (CMEA)
A federated association of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME)
Response to Los Angeles Unified School District Arts Integration announcement
February 25, 2014
As the teachers professional association that represents over 7000 music teachers in California, including those in LAUSD, it is with grave concern that we learn of LAUSD’s arts integration proposal. The district says that it will be “less expensive” to deliver arts instruction through the training of generalist elementary classroom teachers, but has there been a conversation about quality? Given that LAUSD simultaneously plans to spread its existing credentialed music teachers to 320 schools instead of 160, with each teacher traveling to ten schools a week instead of five, it appears as though the district has no desire to provide an education in the arts with quality as a consideration.
Given educational trends away from paper and pencil standardized tests and towards students being assessed on what they are able to do versus what facts they know, those of us in arts education stand ready to engage students at a higher academic level and increase students depth of knowledge in their studies. With less time for music instruction, this new LAUSD proposal is a step in the wrong direction.
For many years now, elementary teachers in California have not been required to take an adequate number of arts content courses in college to prepare them to instruct our students with a high level of academic rigor in the arts. In LAUSD’s ill-conceived arts integration proposal, they plan to have arts teachers come in to teach elementary teachers how to do “arts integration.” Unfortunately, these elementary teachers generally do not have the content knowledge in dance, music, theatre or visual arts to adequately teach to our California content standards in the arts. How will teachers effectively deliver arts integration instruction if they don’t know the arts? This is a band-aid approach that will not benefit LAUSD students.
CMEA commends the LAUSD School Board for continuing to provide and expand arts education within the second largest school district in the country, which we know is no easy task. However, if the district is serious about making the arts a core subject, this proposal clearly falls short of that desired outcome. CMEA shares LAUSD board members Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff's concerns about relying on arts integration to provide robust and meaningful instruction in the arts. As such, our organization strongly recommends focusing on improving access to arts education in LAUSD by expanding the ranks of certified arts specialists and treating arts integration strategies as supplemental. CMEA stands at the ready to offer guidance and perspective on this matter, and hopes to work with all parties toward achieving a more beneficial result for all LAUSD students.