This week, 476 school districts across the United States are being recognized by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation as among the Best Communities for Music Education (BCME), out of the nation’s 13,515 school districts.
In addition, the NAMM Foundation also has recognized 118 schools across the nation with the Support Music Merit Award (SMMA), honoring individual schools that have demonstrated strong support for and commitment to music education.
Among those 118 schools were three Illinois high schools—Bloom Trail in Chicago Heights, Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Zion-Benton, and Morton—three middle schools, and four elementary schools. Two high schools in Maryland—Liberty in Eldersburg and Oxon Hill—were among those listed, in addition to an elementary school.
The BCME and SMMA designations take on added significance this year due to the passage of the new federal education law in December 2015. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) designates music as a recommended subject and as part of “a well-rounded education.” ESSA shifts more control to the states and schools and encourages policy makers to give non-tested subjects such as music a more important role in the development of school curricula.
“The schools and districts that the NAMM Foundation honors this year with this award demonstrate a commitment to supporting music education and assuring opportunities for music learning in the curriculum for all students,” said Mary Luehrsen of the NAMM Foundation. “We are moving from a time when curricula were narrowed due to pressure from testing and test-prep remediation to a broader view of what is important for all children. That includes access to a well-rounded education—and an opportunity to learn and grow with music and the arts. The schools and districts we recognize serve as models for other educators looking to develop standards-based music education programs.”
The districts honored as Best Communities for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation include urban, suburban and rural districts. Schools receiving the SMMA designation in 2016 include both public and private schools and range from elementary to middle and high schools.
Districts and schools recognized previously by the NAMM Foundation have reported that the honor has significantly increased interest in and support for their music programs. Many school leaders have indicated that the award has had a direct impact on funding for music programs. Almost all say that recognition of music programs helps to generate a greater sense of pride in the community and support for what their faculty is doing in the schools. In some cases this has resulted in increased monetary donations and volunteer support for school music programs.
“Music and the arts make a very positive contribution to the general success of the school and connection to the community,” said University of Kansas researcher and professor Christopher Johnson. “Access to music and the arts in the curriculum is important in its own right and connects students to their own personal expression and creativity.”
The BCME program evaluates schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards, community support, participation and access to music instruction. The NAMM Foundation, with the assistance of researchers at The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas, evaluates participants on these factors. Designations are made to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and access to music education.
Now in its 17th year, BCME recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who work together to ensure access to music learning for all students as part of the school curriculum.