Business Musician's Blog

The Universal Lessons of Music Education

The Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind

The well-intended implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act has resulted in increased emphasis on standardized testing in our schools and fewer resources available for subjects other than reading and math (including music and the arts). The Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind is holding a hearing in New Orleans today to discuss education standards, data, reform. etc.

My comments submitted for the record are noted below. You can provide written comments for the public record via e-mail. Click here for more info.

April 5, 2010

The Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind
Tulane University
Lavin Bernick Center, Kendall Cram Room (#213)
New Orleans, LA
April 5th, 2010
1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. CST

Working Together for Student Success: Accountability, Data, and High Standards

COMMENTOR NAME: Craig M. Cortello

AFFILIATION: Music Education Advocacy author and speaker. Author of Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music (La Dolce Vita Publishing, 2009). A 20 year veteran of engineering, consulting, and manufacturing industries and a 30 year guitarist/pianist/songwriter. Contributing music writer to Where Y’at magazine in New Orleans and AllAboutJazz.com. Business articles have appeared in Convention Forum, Industrial Engineer, and Executive IdeaLink magazines.

RE: Music Education & No Child Left Behind

From the perspective of the arts community, No Child Left Behind was seen as a significant victory, in the sense that it recognized “Arts” as a core academic subject. As is often the case, there seems to be a disconnect between what has been written into law and what is in fact reality.

According to a series of reports by the Center on Education Policy that tracks the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (which became law in 2002) entitled From the Capital to the Classroom, 62 percent of elementary school districts reported increasing time for English and/or math since the 2001-02 school year by an average increase of 42 percent. At the same time, 44 percent of elementary school districts reported cutting time from one or more other subjects including science, social studies, art and music, physical education, lunch, and recess by an average of about 30 minutes per day.

“What gets tested gets taught,” said Jack Jennings, CEP’s president and CEO. “Because so much is riding on reading and math, included on state tests, many schools have cut back time on other important areas, which means that some students are not receiving a broad curriculum.”

The report also notes that these changes are more prevalent in districts that are home to struggling schools. One recommendation from the report is to “include measures of knowledge and skills in art and music as one of the multiple measures used for NCLB accountability.”

Over a period of 2 years, I conducted interviews with 32 CEOs and business leaders who played music as a child or adolescent and view that experience as a defining one in preparing them for success. The compilation of those interviews and profiles became the primary content of my book entitled Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, published in September of 2009, a copy of which I have submitted for the record.

One of the questions that I asked of all of the research participants was this, “Based on your experience with music, if a school principal or administrator came to you and asked for 2 or 3 talking points that would be compelling in justifying funding to keep a music education program intact, what would you say.”

Consistently, the answer to that question was some variation of the following:

“Music kept me engaged in the school experience where I might have become disenchanted with the experience otherwise.”
“I kept up with my studies to fulfill an obligation so that I could play in the marching band.”
“I didn’t feel part of the mainstream, but music became my identity.”
“I knew I had talent, but I don’t respond well to traditional assessment methods. Music validated that belief for me.”

And therein lies the irony. In short, music education IS a no child left behind program. It keeps children that don’t necessarily shine according to traditional metrics of student performance involved in school.

Sometimes tutoring and remedial course offerings are not enough to keep children on the bus. We need to find a motivating reason for them to want to come along for the ride.

It does seem to me that the very well-intended accountability motives that have driven the demand for standardized testing have led us to a more narrow approach to education. These changes come in an era when the workforce is demanding more well-rounded, diversified individuals possessing artistic sensitivities, as expressed very articulately by authors such as Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, Ned Herrmann, and John Kao.

Creativity is just one of 9 common lessons that we identified from music education that translate into business success, FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM so to speak. One common theme in most all research on the topic of creativity is the concept that creativity is like a muscle. The capacity for creative thought will either strengthen with use or wither with inactivity. We must engage in creative activities in order to develop that capacity.

My concern – Where will our children have the opportunity to strengthen their “creativity muscles” without music and arts education in our schools?

In closing, I would like to simply say that until we recognize that music and the arts are as essential as reading and math in preparing our students for the 21st century workplace, any perceived improvements through the implementation of accountability measures are hollow victories. Our ability to meet performance metrics is meaningless if those metrics are not a true measure of the needs of our students.

James Carlini is an international business infrastructure and technology consultant and a former distinguished teaching award recipient at Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Education. He advocates a movement away from the 3 R’s of education that were appropriate for the industrial age toward what he refers to as the F-A-C-T approach toward education – that is, a focus on Flexibility, Adaptability, Creativity, and Technology as the necessary cornerstones of a post-information age education. And music and the arts should play an integral role in that migration.

I ask you to reverse this disturbing trend of diminishing resources for music and the arts.

Musically inspired,

LA DOLCE VITA ENTERPRISES, LLC

Craig M. Cortello

The “Business Musician”
President

P.O. Box 746
Metairie, LA 70004-0746

Cell: (504) 481-6105
ccortello@ldv-enterprises.com

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April 5, 2010 - Posted by | Education, Education Reform, Music Education, Music Education Advocacy, New Orleans, The Arts, Universal Lessons of Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. [...] My thoughts on Music Education and No Child Left Behind in a letter to the Aspen Institute’s C… Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Music Education Budget Consideration: Keeping Students Engaged, Motivated, …NAMM Foundation Announces “Best Communities for Music Education” 2010 S…Sir Ken Robinson on Creativity in Education [...]

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  2. [...] I’ve stated previously here in a letter to the Aspen’s Institute on No Child Left Behind, “Our ability to meet performance metrics is meaningless if those metrics are not a true [...]

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