U-46 considers new standards for music education

  • Music education is being transformed in Elgin Area School District U-46 as officials consider adopting a new curriculum for middle and high schools.

    Music education is being transformed in Elgin Area School District U-46 as officials consider adopting a new curriculum for middle and high schools. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Area School District U-46 will be adopting new standards for music education at its schools this fall.

    Elgin Area School District U-46 will be adopting new standards for music education at its schools this fall. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/8/2017 4:16 PM

Officials at the state's second-largest school district are considering changing the way music is taught at the middle and high schools starting this fall.

The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board this week reviewed a new music curriculum and music theory and appreciation curriculum and resource for seventh through 12th grades.

 

It's been more than 10 years since the music and fine arts curriculum has been updated, U-46 Fine Arts Coordinator Alicia Kopec said.

The proposed secondary music curriculum is aligned with National Core Arts Standards. It includes a newly developed and written music theory and appreciation component for high schools, Kopec said.

"Music theory has been run in the classroom, but there was no music theory curriculum in the book to use," Kopec said. "Teachers piloted their own programs. There was nothing across the board for all high schools to utilize."

A committee of U-46 educators, including members of the band, chorus and orchestra from middle and high schools, worked for nearly two years on developing the curriculum.

Officials wanted to get ahead of the state, which is lagging behind on updating its fine arts standards.

"Illinois state standards for the fine arts are outdated and are considered null and void," Kopec said. "Illinois will not be implementing new standards until the 2018-19 school year."

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If adopted by the board, music teachers will receive training on the new MusicFirst curriculum resource before and after the curriculum rollout this fall.

MusicFirst is an online classroom for K-12 music education with engaging content and integrated software available on a cloud-based platform for teachers. The cost is roughly $14,000.

Once implemented, officials will monitor and assess the effectiveness and use of the curriculum and assessments the following school year.

U-46 also is revamping how music and arts are taught at its 40 elementary schools this fall. It no longer will be about whether students can sing along or grasp the basics of how to play an instrument.

The district will be rolling out a new elementary fine arts curriculum aligned with national standards that goes beyond the current skills-based curriculum and incorporates new technology. It is more analytical and helps students understand and identify musical concepts and connect with the material with greater depth of knowledge.

The new elementary curriculum incorporates "hands-on interactive lessons" and is web-based instead of using traditional textbooks.

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