Misconceptions surround changes in arts program
Three years ago, the Douglas County School District (DCSD) changed the way it schedules its elementary music program. Since that time, many misconceptions about the effects of these changes on students have surfaced. Hopefully, the answers to the following questions will dispel those misconceptions and reassure the public about the fine arts programs that are offered in the district.
n Why was the music program in DCSD redesigned?
When the Strategic Planning Committee met in January 1996, the committee decided that we needed a plan to “ensure students the opportunity to participate in fine arts activities.” An advisory committee was formed to make recommendations regarding the fine arts program to them. This committee reported its findings and recommendations to the Strategic Planning Committee at its annual meeting in January 1997. At that time, the Strategic Planning Committee approved a fine arts strategy which states: “We will provide students opportunities to participate in all fine arts activities. Fine arts are defined as music, visual arts, dance and drama.”
Historically, the district had little to offer students in the way of formal instruction in visual arts, dance and drama at the elementary level. In 1996, changes were made to the elementary music program in order to provide time to offer other fine arts opportunities to students. The underlying philosophy is that, although many students thrive in a music program, there are also many students who will benefit from instruction in other fine arts areas.
n What was the fine arts program prior to the development of the Strategic Plan?
In the elementary schools, students received vocal music instruction for an hour each week for the entire school year. Band was offered, for those students who chose to take it, two to four times a week during the school day. The length of band instruction varied from 30 to 45 minutes each instructional period. No formal instruction was offered in visual arts, dance or drama. Middle schools offered elective courses in choral music, band, art and, to a lesser extent, drama. High schools offered electives in choral music, band and art, but little was offered in drama and dance.
n What is the fine arts program in DCSD today?
In the elementary school, students in grades 1-6 receive one-hour instruction weekly in vocal music, music history and appreciation, and dance for one semester each year. Visual art is offered the other semester to students in grades 1-6 for the same amount of time. Kindergarten students receive 1/2-hour each week since their time in school each day is limited to half days. Band is offered to 6th grade students outside the school day. DCSD provides whatever transportation is necessary to insure that those students who choose to take band can. There are currently approximately 100 6th grade students in the elementary band program and the District hopes to extend band to 5th grade students at some point. Opportunities for drama are integrated into core subjects. Dance is not only part of the music curriculum but is also integrated into the physical education program.
In the middle schools, vocal music, band, art and drama are offered as elective courses so that students may pursue their individual interests. Dance is offered as part of the physical education program. Since middle school is a time for exploration, these electives provide students with an opportunity to sample the fine arts and provide a foundation on which to base choices in high school.
In high school, one unit of fine arts is required for graduation, and the offerings in DCSD are numerous and varied. Offerings have increased since students have been exposed to all the fine arts and can make better individual choices. Electives range from drawing, painting, pottery, graphics, photography and drama to jazz band, show choir, guitar, chorus, music appreciation, jazz dance, dance line and musical theater. These are only a few of the electives offered at our high schools. A complete listing of the classes offered can be found in the DCSD’s Accountability Report.
n How do teachers feel about the changes in our fine arts program?
We have wonderful teachers in DCSD and our music teachers are no exception. It is true that many students thrive in our excellent music program. It is also true that some music teachers and parents are understandably upset about having the music program reduced so that other fine arts programs can be included. A third truth is that some teachers and parents might argue that other students are also thriving as a result of the additional and varied fine arts offerings.
The intent of the district’s fine arts strategy is to offer students choices and a variety of experiences so that they can pursue their more specialized talents as they get older. Many extracurricular fine arts programs and events are offered at our elementary, middle and high schools. Calendars of these events are available at all of the district’s schools. Please feel free to review the Strategic Plan, the District’s Accountability Report and the schools’ fine arts calendars. You will see that the arts, including music, are thriving in the Douglas County School District.
n Maggie Allen is the Douglas County School District community liaison. She can be reached at 782-5134.