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Losing Struggling Choir Members To Core Classes Daily?

I am a combined MS/HS choir director. At a staff meeting I was unable to attend (or perhaps several), our principal implemented a new policy -- at the urging of core class teachers--to force any student who is failing a class, missing homework, or needs to study for a test, to miss choir and go to what is called 'study table'. I am currently, out of a 7th grade choir of 47 students, missing anywhere from 10 - 20 students PER DAY from my class--all due to 'study table' and this asinine new policy.
 
Have any of you experience this stupidity? If so, what are you doing to combat it?
 
Administrators really don't seem to comprehend that the students who are present are affected by the absence of their classmates. The band director and I have tried talking to her about this but she vehemently opposes any opposition to this new policy.
 
Any advice? Experience fighting this?
Replies (7): Threaded | Chronological
on March 1, 2016 3:46pm
This has come up before; also scheduling conflicts with AP courses.  Alas, it appears to be the way of the future, as schools feel more and more pressure to justify their expenditures and student achievement to those who want to "reform" and "privatize" public education. 
 
I have often wondered if there is more that our professional organizations could do in the way of advocacy.  Here's one suggestion:  Since this attitude begins with the inadequate or nonexistent arts education courses required of administrators and core teachers, our professional organizations should call for improvements at teacher and administrator training institutions across the country.  Everyone talks about the value of the arts and the ways they improve performance in core subjects, yet our educational institutions keep churning out ignorant and/or spineless core teachers and administrators.  
 
Sure glad I am at the end of my career!   Some suggestions, in no particular order:
 
1.  Educate and organize parents, especially parents whose children keep up on their work and are shortchanged by your school's policy.
2.  Go to a reporter--they love stories about  educational issues. This is probably more appropriate after pursuing other avenues.
3.  Go to your principal's supervisor, the superintendent and the school board.  There is no reason you cannot politely and respectfully bring up this policy and explain why it is counterproductive to what you are hired and expected to do.  Are there any well known musicians or advocates in your community who can support you?  College professors? 
4.  Find out if any of the above especially value music education, and start with a private conversation with them.  When my department was cut in half during the Recession, the motion before the school board was to cut music entirely.  It was one board member who changed the motion by saying "It's so hard to restart programs once they're gone.  Can't we reduce the program by half instead of eliminating it completely?"
5.  Realize that the culture at your school is simply not compatible with arts education.  Look for another job. (And tell the parents and media why.)
6.  Institute your own policy:  Anyone who misses two rehearsals because work has to be made up, is out of choir.  Better for you and the "regulars" to have consistency, but of course it's too bad that the principal's policy results in so many students being deprived of music.  OF COURSE, if the principal complains you put it right back on him or her.  "I'm sorry, but it is not possible to have a successful choir program without regular attendance."   If the principal persists, you might ask "And where did you receive your training and experience in music education?"
7.  In any of the situations above, ask what would happen if principals and core teachers caused a football player to miss practice.
8.  Get your union involved, if you have one.  Start a regional advocacy group composed of arts educators throughout your area.
9.  Why not have the make up period after school?  At the first school I worked at, we had after-school detention and one-hour-late buses specifically for this purpose.
 
Lastly, for those who are just beginning their careers as music teachers, be aware that all jobs are NOT created equal.  Look before you leap.  Have you thought in detail about what you MUST have in a postion?  Or are you just going to grab the first job you're offered and hope for the best?  Make a list.  Take it to your interviews and politely interview them as they interview you.  Before you graduate, set aside one half day a week EVERY WEEK and visit music classrooms.   Ask music teachers what works and what doesn't in their positions.  Talk to the previous person(s) who had the job you're applying for, and to other music teachers in the district.  It's difficult to deal with a fundamental change dictated from above as in Alan's case, but do what you can to avoid those problems if you're just starting out. 
 
Applauded by an audience of 5
on March 2, 2016 5:46pm
Why does the band teacher oppose fighting this policy?
on March 3, 2016 5:31am
I think that "her" and "she" in the third paragraph refers to the principal, not the band teacher.
The new policy IS asinine, in my opinion, but it may come from "higher up" and your principal is just trying to keep her job by doing what she's told.  Worth digging into a little more before you plan and implement a resistance movement.  Best of luck with your efforts to reverse the policy. 
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 3, 2016 5:40am
Misuse of pronouns---sorry! The "she" is our principal.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 4, 2016 8:06am
This is indeed a draconian policy and, music aside, is totally anti-educational as it allows the student to opt out of responsibility (needs to study for a test), it allows any teacher to pull a student out of choir (any student who is failing a class), and it lets the parent(s) off the hook (missing homework). Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. If I were a conspiracy theorist I’d have a field day with this one! It places all non-core teachers (choir, band, dramatic presentations etc.) in a precarious position, and thus puts on probation the highest callings that the arts inculcate, inspire– and require. I suspect the band teacher will reconsider… eventually. Have you thought of getting together will all other non-core teachers whose work with students is jeopardized, and discussing down the road implications? For example, schools place high value on end-of-semester/year shows where gloating parents see their kids on stage. Is this really still possible when you never know from one day to the next who is going to be in these presentations? Principals may well indeed relax their own principles if they see this coming down the pipeline...   
 
Give it a year, and then depending upon the result you might want consider Bart's #5.
 
Donald
Applauded by an audience of 2
on March 4, 2016 4:23pm
Also I works like to recommend that you flood your parents with new research on the value of music education especially that based on brain research. We must not accept being considered a frill.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on March 4, 2016 5:51pm
Sorry I misread your previous post. I'm glad you and the band teacher are of one mind on this. If I were going to address this, parents would be a powerful asset. However, you and the band teacher should do your best to organize together and control the message. Otherwise, a parent who is overly dramatic or insulting could undermine your credibility. Decide what you want to say before you organize anyone and set yourselves up as the ones who have an inside track on how things should be said. Get parents of students who are struggling and students who are excelling to voice concerns. If possible, propose an alternative to this policy that would allow your administration to address their concerns about student achievement and look like they are the "good guy." When you find an agreeable alternative, make sure you thank your administration for collaborating with you to find a solution for what's best for kids. Remember, even though you don't agree on the methods, it is what you and your principal want.
Applauded by an audience of 1
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