Monday, January 19, 2015

Reflections from IMEA (2015)

On February 16 & 17, I had the privilege of presenting at the Indiana Music Education Association's annual Professional Development Conference. This convention was held in Ft. Wayne, and provided an opportunity to learn from and meet some great educators. My session was entitled 'The Power of Story: Enhancing Your Program,' and summarized some of the efforts, principles and frameworks that have helped increase the Gahanna Orchestra Department's participation levels by 116% and elevate the average retention rate to 78% in six years. There was time at the end where attendees shared their own successes.

I was fortunate to attend two sessions by Bob Phillips, one of the foremost string educators in the country. While the information on the provided handouts were familiar ideas, I knew that the real gems would be when he shared his experiences and impromptu recollection of pedagogical tips and tricks used throughout the years. The margins on my copies are filled to the brim with ideas and actionable steps to implement in GJPS.

At his session about the Double Bass, I was fortunate to meet David Murray (Professor of Double Bass at Butler University). David is a former student of Gary Karr. THE GARY KARR. His musicianship, performance history and curriculum vitae are equally impressive! After a great lunch with both he and Soo Han (in addition to some of his current and former colleagues), we are planning for David to visit Gahanna Lincoln H.S.!

Many thanks to the GJPS Administration for providing coverage on Friday, February 16th while I traveled and presented. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reflections from the State Board of Education (Nov/Dec 2014)

For the past two months (November/December), I had the privilege of attending the Ohio State Board of Education meetings to provide testimony on behalf of Ohio's students.

In the 1980's, language in the Operating Standards mandated that schools in the state hire 5 of 8 full time positions; including: counselor, library media specialist, school nurse, visiting teacher, social worker and elementary art, music and physical education. This came to be known as the Ohio 5 of 8 Rule ("Rule") and the individuals staffed for these positions were defined as "Educational Service Personnel" ("ESP"). At the time, there was a funding formula that (basically) incentivized districts to provide these services. With the redaction of that funding formula, the Rule has been without enforcement for a number of years. Additionally, with an increased demand for local control in the political arena, districts throughout the state (to my understanding) have advocated for a language change to this rule. Such a language change would allow the flexibility to provide services to schools/districts through partnerships with local and county entities. For example, board members shared the following scenario: "If a school, particularly a small one, is across the street from a county hospital, should they not have the flexibility to cost-share?"

Below you will find (1)(2) my testimonies, advocating for language change within the Rule to place music, art and physical education alongside other core academic content areas, (3) the amended language, which I feel is an improvement to the previous language, (4) my emails to Ron Rudduck, chair of the Operating Standards committee, following a phone conversation, and (5) my email to Debra Terhar, president (at the time) of the SBOE.

This conversation is just beginning. Zip code should not determine Arts programming, no more than Math and Science. Per my December testimony, the most fundamental language change that needs to occur is the inclusion of "elementary music, art and physical education" into a listing of credentialed staff and explicitly name it alongside other content areas.

Many thanks to Tim Katz (Executive Director of the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education), Michael Collins (SBOE) and Ron Rudduck (SBOE) for their work and collaboration to develop the amended language.

I am deeply grateful to the Gahanna Jefferson Public School's Administration and Board for their support, for allowing me to advocate for what is best for Ohio's students.

(1) November SBOE Testimony
(2) December SBOE Testimony 
(3) Amended Language (via OAAE Statement)
(4) Email to Mr. Rudduck

Mr. RudduckThank you for the opportunity to speak with you the other day. The new language has much strength and provides more flexibility (local control) for districts, with regard to "social services" (e.g., nurses, social workers, counselors, etc.). While we are both in agreement that the protection of core academic content areas (e.g., music, art, and physical education) is a larger discussion, I do believe the SBOE can provide the necessary guidance without creating an unfunded mandate or relinquishing local control. 
This afternoon, I was considering what could be added to the K-12 Operating Standards that met the current agenda: (1) not creating unfunded mandates, and (2) providing local control. The italicized language below, I feel, is a step in the right direction to (1) provide a guideline for districts, (2) acknowledge the academic nature and value of these curricular areas [though the classroom environments are different from other content], (3) explicitly state what many on the State Board have expressed,  and (4) support neuroscience and current research in this arena. 
The language also supports the amended Rule 01 and 05.  "Lifelong participation in the Fine Arts and Physical Education provide innumerable cognitive and noncognitive benefits. It is an expectation by the Department of Education and the State Board of Education that curricular courses (with approved state and national standards) in music, art and physical education be provided at each level of education (Pre-K-12) to all Ohio’s students."

Please let me know your thoughts.

All the best,Kevin Dengel 

(5) Email to President Terhar: 

Mrs. Terhar,
It was wonderful speaking with you following Monday’s SBOE meeting. I appreciate the new language and the efforts by the Board and Tim Katz, because I believe it helps move this discussion in a productive direction. There are many elements in the amended language that appear stronger; however, I still do not understand why core curricular content areas (e.g., music, art and PE) are on the the list of ESP.  I shared with you the situation with middle school art in my own district, and while you said “they should be ashamed,” it did not protect this subject area when a financial decision was on the table. Music, Art and PE should NOT be included as ESP at any level, because it undermines the Ohio Graduation Requirements and the value system (seemingly) of many members of the SBOE. For example, when Tim Katz shared information about reduction/elimination of art(s) curriculum, you spoke up about protocols/systems in place for the (1) reduction of funding, (2) revocation of superintendent’s/principal’s licensure, etc. for these districts.
It would seem that you, and others, rightfully value Arts education in schools. If the Board is encouraging formal disciplinary action against these offending districts, principals and superintendents, then it would stand to reason that music, art and PE are too valuable to make optional and should thereby be codified into language.
There is still an opportunity to provide local control for the staff presented in (B) and (C) of Rule 01; however, music, art and PE should not be on this list - again, because they are core academic content areas of high-value. Both the previous and amended language do not protect these K-12 curricular areas from budgetary cuts, as evident in the 50+ schools OAAE has identified via ODE EMIS data. 
I would implore you and the Board to look at the language in both the ORC and the Operating Standards to see what could be done to ensure that all students in Ohio have opportunities for music, art and PE throughout grades K-12.Districts do not get an option to make Math (another core subject, like Music) available to its students. As I stated in my November testimony: the Operating Standards are a value system, and students of Ohio deserve to see music, art and PE alongside their other core academic subject areas in language and law. I plan on contacting the Ohio legislature, per your suggestion. I would love to speak with you further about this.
Lastly, hearing about your son's success in music was awesome! Music clearly had (and continues to have) an impact on his life - and yours. I would love to hear a recording of one of his performances! My address is at the footer of my December testimony, and I would welcome a CD via mail or MP3 via email.