National Standards in Education
A little history . . . Bear with me, now! It's helpful to know how we get ourselves into the pickle in the first place.
On August 26, 1981, the U.S. Secretary of Education, T. H. Bell, created the National Commission on Excellence in Education, directed to research and report on American education. In 1983, the resulting report was entitled, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. This report revealed many deficiencies in the American system of education. The Goals 2000 Act, initiated in 1989, was enacted to address these challenges, calling for national standards in English, history, civics and government, foreign languages, geography, economics, and the arts. The objective was to coordinate state and federal resources in order to improve academic standards. In other words, individual states were given some flexibility with which to implement established National Education Goals.
In 1994, the National Standards for the Arts, as recommended by the Consortium of National Arts Education Associations, were signed into federal law by President Bill Clinton. The National Standards for Arts Education outline "what every student should know and be able to do in the arts" (MENC). Included in this document, published by the National Association for Music Education, were nine voluntary content standards for music education.
The standards specified results or outcomes, but not curriculum, method, or philosophy, in an attempt to allow flexibility for a wide-range of local circumstances and resources. Ultimately, some states instituted these standards as law and some retained voluntary status. Most states have their own version of the Standards, based upon the national document. The Content Standards for the National Standards for the Arts in Music are as follows:
1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
2. Performing on instruments, along and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
3. Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.
4. Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
5. Reading and notating music.
6. Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.
7. Evaluating music and musical performances.
8. Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.
9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.
Each of the standards is assigned Achievement Standards that specify the prescribed outcomes for the content standard. These are listed for each of three tiers: grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12, and include basic, proficient, and advanced proficiency levels. These prescribed achievement standards are the goals associated with students in grades 4, 8, and 12, and strategies for assessment of these levels are also provided by MENC.