Music and physical education teachers develop tests

HINESBURG Faced with the challenge of measuring success and improving outcomes in subjects as difficult to quantify as music and physical education, the teachers of those subjects in Chittenden South schools began to work together in 2005 to establish standards. On Wednesday, April 11 they reported on their success during a meeting of the board of Chittenden South Supervisory Union, with school board members from all the district schools attending to hear their report. Williston Central School music teacher Andy Smith, who reported on the music teachers study project with Kim Thompson who also teaches music at Williston, described the test applied randomly to second grade students in all the district schools to find areas of instruction that need improvement, provide a basis for professional development, identify best practices that might be shared among the teachers and evaluate their successes. Their test, which was demonstrated to the board who listened to a CD of the instructions given to the students, heard the song they were asked to sing having heard it twice, and then heard a sample of the students singing Let us chase the squirrel, up the hickory, down the hickory with varying degrees of success in keeping the tune, the pitch and the rhythm. Smith explained that after the teachers had gathered their random sample of singers, they all gathered to listen to the 301 recordings, scoring them on a scale of 1 to 4, and then tabulating the results. While the students all got a 4 on adorable, Smith said, the teachers were able to draw correlations between the scores and the teaching practices in the schools. Their findings: children who start music classes later, or in bigger classes or have music once a week instead of twice a week, score lower. The teachers plan to expand their study into higher grades, and recognize that any change will take time. Dick Farrell and Jen Oakes, both physical education teachers, reported on the findings of a study made by physical education teachers of the district who began by compiling information on what each school offers, frequency of classes, amount of equipment available. The goal for the teachers, Oakes said, is to instill a life-long love of physical activity, and to ensure that elementary students are prepared for the expectations of their high school experience at CVU. Their analysis of the successes of the school programs was based on videotapes made of second graders running, fourth graders throwing forehand and seventh graders doing a forehand strike. The results they found: 88 percent of second graders, 78 percent of fourth graders and 75 percent of seventh graders met or exceeded the standards. Curriculum Director Jude Newman said the process is a beginning step in establishing standards for music and physical education, and places the CSSU faculty in the forefront of assessment practice.

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