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Curriculum Development in California is a Fraud

California Department of Education: Curriculum Development Horrors


Isn't she pretty? Rather Goya-esque - (Wasn't Goya the great artist/political satirist? Well Delaine, you're probably not even aware that Goya was an artist so why worry about satire!) Oh, bet you can't guess what the picture, at the left, and the music that's playing in the background have in common!? I'm sure that'll be a TOUGH riddle for you to solve!

DELAINE EASTIN HAS CONSISTENTLY REFUSED TO PROMOTE QUALITY EDUCATION IN CALIFORNIA. As President of the California Music Educators Association - Southern Section, which represents nearly TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT of all music educators in California, I can personally state that Delaine Eastin refused, along with the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Office, to address the unethical practices going on there - this was well before she knew about (and also ignored) the problems at Lomitas Elementary School and the Victor Elementary School District too! (Could this be a pattern?) Here are a couple of items to examine on how the California State Department of Education wastes money and plays petty political games, as they allegedly develop "curricula" for use in California Schools.

  • Delaine Eastin HASN'T A CLUE as to how poorly written official state documents really are! No wonder children receive such a poor education in so many areas of our state!

    "The Framework outlines what students should know in the arts. It is organized around the vision of providing all opportunities for all students to become responsible, creative, reasoning, understanding, and thoughtful citizens." (Delaine Eastin, 1996 Visual and Performing Arts for California Public Schools, page vi.) Too bad, Ms. Eastin, you don't take your own advise!

  • Delaine Eastin ignores the California State Department of Education's Own Policies when selecting "leaders" to disseminate information about official state documents regarding curriculum.

    "Let us continue to work together to offer comprehensive arts education to all of California's youths. . ." (Delaine Eastin, 1996 Visual and Performing Arts for California Public Schools, page vi.) Oh? Really? Then why do you consistently IGNORE so many unethical practices in our schools? By the way, Lomitas Elementary School, which YOU nominated as a "National Blue Ribbon School" DOESN'T HAVE AN ARTS PROGRAM. Guess that makes you a hypocrite!

The following article was written for the California Music Educators Association regarding the unethical practices that occurred when Delaine Eastin, California Superintendent for Public Instruction and the California Department of Education "developed" and published the current "State Framework for the Visual and Performing Arts". State Frameworks are the documents that are supposed to provide guidance to school districts as they develop curriculum for their students. Why is anyone surprised by the fact that California frequently ranks near the bottom of all states on so many issues regarding education?

Song Without a Melody:
The New State Framework for the Visual and Performing Arts

The Visual and Performing Arts Framework for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve was unveiled at a gala celebration, February 21-23, 1996, at Asilomar. What? You missed it? Well, maybe that was because you decided to attend the 1996 California Music Educators Association State Conference, held February 22-24, 1996 at Santa Clara instead. Even so, it must have been an extremely difficult task trying to decide between these two events - over 1,100 music educators from all over the state decided to attend the CMEA Conference while just a few hundred educators, allegedly representing all four arts disciplines, attended the framework conference. Ooops, there seems to have been just one other, itty-bitty problem--State Framework Conference participants were selected by invitation only. On the surface, that shouldn't be a concern because the State Department of Education should be trusted to develop a system that would allow only the finest, most knowledgeable educators, from each arts discipline, to attend. Without question, we should now assume that those attending the Framework Conference are now the experts on this new document and that all of these individuals should serve as staff developers and consultants for the school districts in their respective regions.

As President of CMEA-Southern Section, I was fortunate in being able to observe (from the outside) how conference participants were selected. In one of our counties, the regional director of the local California Arts Project site (the Riverside, Inyo, Mono, and San Bernardino County California Arts Project or "RIMSCAP") also happened to work for the San Bernardino County Office of Education as a part-time employee. This individual was selected, by some unknown process, as a "regional leader" for implementation of the new VAPA framework. Instead of consulting with professional arts education organizations in the region, which included the California Music Educators Association, the Inland Counties Chapter, American Orff-Schulwerk Association, and the San Bernardino County Music Educators Association, (as directed by the California Department of Education), this individual decided to select personal friends and "TCAPers" for the county team to the Asilomar Conference. Not a single member of any professional music education organization was represented on this county's team of "experts." In a neighboring county, another regional leader spent a considerable amount of time attempting to select a team that was truly representative of arts educators in the area. This individual, however, received notice from other county administrators that a letter of complaint had been received from the state California Arts Project (TCAP) office that "not enough members of TCAP were represented on the regional team." Smell a rat? You bet!

As it is unlikely that you were able to attend the Asilomar Conference, I would like to provide a brief review of the new framework to point out a few things that are worthy of note. On the positive side, there are several statements that should prove useful to most music educators. These include:

  • "Education in the arts is essential for all students. California's public school system must provide a balanced curriculum, with the arts as a part of the core for all students, kindergarten through grade twelve, no matter what the students' abilities, language capacities, or special needs happen to be." (Framework, pg. 1)
  • "The arts are core subjects." (Framework, pg. 5)"
  • "All students need access to instruction in classroom or general music as well as to participation in choral and instrumental ensembles, and the instruction needs to be provided by credentialed music specialists." (Framework, pg. 55)

These are powerful statements indeed and should be given to every school administrator and school board member in the state. Educators may even wish to post these on classroom doors so that everyone who enters will receive these messages about the importance of quality music education.

Clearly then, the new framework contains material that supports the role of music education in our schools. Unfortunately, it also contains a lot of nonsense. As with the previous framework (written in 1982 and reprinted in 1989), there is an overwhelming emphasis upon four common components (as invented/identified by the California State Department of Education) between each arts discipline. These four components are: Aesthetic Perception (now called Artistic Perception), Creative Expression, Arts Heritage (renamed Historical and Cultural Context), and Aesthetic Valuing. Interestingly, it is stated that, "a fundamental goal embodied in this framework is that every student in every California school must experience each arts discipline and the breath of all four components in each discipline during each year of school." (Framework, pg. 7) Perhaps more disturbing is that each of these components are intended to be an integral part of a "comprehensive arts program" because they "are common to the instruction of each discipline. A clear understanding of each component is helpful when programs are evaluated for their thoroughness in the teaching of the arts." (Framework, pg. 20) One has to wonder how anyone developed a reasonable understanding of the arts prior the invention of these components.

Not surprisingly, these components have been frequently criticized by music educators because they are nebulous in nature and are ineffective as an organizational structure upon which to develop quality musical experiences for children. It is possible that the use of these components may have contributed to the decline of arts education since they were first introduced in 1982. Specifically, possible reasons for this may include:

  1. It is difficult, at best, to utilize these components when developing a meaningful curriculum in the arts. As the previous framework states, they were designed to demonstrate commonalties between the arts. While there is nothing wrong with this per se, many districts (and teachers) have struggled to use these components when attempting to develop curriculum and have, as a result, created something that has ignored the content of each art. In other words, it is possible to water down the integrity of each art, in order to include these components, with a result being a loss in the quality of subject matter content.
  2. While many individuals within the arts education community are able to understand, intellectually, what these components mean, there are very few who appear to be able to adequately convey that meaning to others. I have yet to find a single classroom teacher, with limited or no formal training in the arts, who is adequately able to do so. Considering the limited number of specialists now in our schools, many districts are using these same classroom teachers on their curriculum committees thereby leaving those responsible for developing an arts curriculum with something that cannot be understood by anyone. Ironically, it is also easier to develop a curriculum that is devoid of content, yet looks good on paper, when using these components as guidelines.
  3. With the continual emphasis on the commonalties between the arts, we are losing much in our attempt to allow children to experience each discipline to its fullest extent. Imagine what a combined framework for mathematics and science would look like - they both use the same language and are interrelated in the same sense that the arts are - would this make an effective document? I doubt it.

Sometimes, there are those within the arts education community who seem to display a certain amount of arrogance when attempting to justify the importance of what the arts have to offer the "uninitiated." One can't help but wonder if these components were developed in an attempt to dispel a perceived notion that maybe some arts are more "important" than others, as well as to impress upon others that arts educators "can use big words too."

Why then were these components left in the new framework ? They were left because "the Framework Committee was instructed not to eliminate the four components, but were asked to clarify them. Many music educators have expressed dissatisfaction with the organization around these four components, however educators in other arts disciplines vigorously defend them." (Gregory, pg. 6) As you will soon see, it might be necessary to question the qualifications of those making this decision.

Let us move on now to some of the real "gems" contained in the new framework. Remember the photograph, on page 87, in the 1989 Framework revision that showed a young man holding a flute backwards? Well, the new framework doesn't have any reverse photos but it sure does have a lot of other, shall we say humorous, pieces of information. Some of the best bloopers include:

  • "Students use a system to read simple rhythms, patterns, and pitch notations in treble clef in major." (Framework, pg. 63) Are students also allowed to read simple patterns in bass clef in minor? (Consider allowing the student to select the minor scale to be used--this might aid in the development of critical thinking skills!)
  • "Student musicians sight read music accurately and expressively, explaining pitch variations in both bass and treble clefs." (Framework, pg. 63) Okay guys, what about "pitch variations" in alto and tenor clefs?
  • "Students sing or perform on an instrument on pitch and in rhythm, with appropriate timbre, diction, and posture, and maintain a steady tempo." (Framework, pg. 64) Here's one for the general music specialist! Be sure to teach your children to enunciate clearly when playing the soprano glockenspiel!
  • "Students sing ostinatos, partner songs, and rounds; or play an instrument, using short rhythms and melodic patterns." (Framework, pg. 64)

The glossary also contains several little tidbits of enlightenment for the learned! A few of these might be:

  • "elements of music. The sensory components used to create and talk about works of music. These components are dynamics, form, harmony, pitch, rhythm, tempo, texture, and timbre." (Framework, pg. 67) Guess we don't need melody! Not to worry though, the framework provides plenty of other definitions for the elements of music--feel free to select the one you like best!

Musical Elements Galore!

Pg. 53
Pg. 63
Pg. 67
Pg. 144
  • "expression. A quality that accounts for the specific emotional effect of music." (Framework, pg. 67) Hmm, which specific emotional effect could this be? Other sources define expression as "I. In composition. Musical expression may be defined as the quality that accounts for the peculiar emotional effect of music--much more than the other arts--on human beings." and "II. In performance. Usually, expression refers less to composition than to performance…" (Apel, pgs. 301-302) Interesting . . .
  • "folk music. Traditional music that has evolved through the process of aural transmission. Well-known American practitioners of this style of music are Woody Guthrie and Jean Ritchie." (Framework, pg. 67) At last, an easy way to teach folk music in a stylistically correct manner-all that needs to be done is to study a few recordings by American artists. This will certainly assist those attempting to integrate multicultural materials into the curriculum!
  • "round. A composition in which the same melody is started at different times and sounded together; also called a canon." (Framework, pg. 68) Hmm . . .

Gosh, there sure is a lot of neat stuff in the new framework! How did this all come into being? The process began in 1994 when 14 arts educators were selected by the California Curriculum Commission to serve on the VAPA Framework and Criteria Committee and the process of revising the previous framework commenced. Of the fourteen educators selected, just three (yes, you can count them on one hand) were music educators. In addition, there were three dance, three theater, and five visual art educators. It is interesting to note that chair of the Curriculum Commission has a background in theater and the vice chair has a background in visual art. Of the California Department of Education staff members who contributed to the development of the framework, two have strong backgrounds in the visual arts. Clearly, with eight individuals trained in the visual arts and only three with a formal education in music there was a gross imbalance to begin with. (Imagine writing a math framework with only three math educators!) Other imbalances were also present; the most notable of these included the fact that nearly all of the Criteria Committee members were active with TCAP (three members currently hold administrative positions with TCAP) and representation from other professional arts education organizations was severely limited.

Considering the political games that were played as the framework was being revised, the music educators on the Criteria Committee did an excellent job--strong statements about the importance of music education (see above) were included and unmistakable references to the National Standards for Arts Education were placed in the framework. So then, what happened? When the Criteria Committee finished their work and the public review of draft copies had been completed, the State Curriculum Commission's Visual and Performing Arts Subject Matter Committee worked on the final revision that was submitted to the State Board of Education and approved on October 13, 1995. It was during this final revision, which did not have the extensive public review that occurred with the early drafts, that all of the above (stupid) errors occurred--a poorly written glossary was added, rambling materials in the appendices appeared, and questionable substantive changes took place. Perhaps the most visible of these last minute changes occurred in the charts which outline the "Goals for Music Education." (Framework, pgs. 63-66) Those familiar with the National Standards will certainly see the resemblance. By comparing the two documents, one is able to determine what went wrong. First, the term "standards" was changed to "goals." Apparently, the Department of Education believes that it might be "nice" for children to acquire the skills listed rather than expecting students to achieve educational excellence. Second, whoever edited the final draft submitted to the State Board of Education (whose members, apparently, also seem to lack an adequate knowledge of music) didn't understand the differences between vocal and instrumental music instruction and combined two standards to form one goal.

In the past, music educators have commented on how useless the VAPA framework has been in assisting with the development of a quality curriculum in music. Perhaps they're right. Consider extracting whatever useful information there is, ignore most of the rhetoric, use the National Standards (instead) to assist with curricular decisions, and remember that the "guidance offered in the Visual and Performing Arts Framework for California Public Schools is not binding on local educational agencies or other entities. Except for the statutes, regulations, and court decisions that are referenced herein, the framework is exemplary, and compliance with it is not mandatory." (Framework, pg. ii)

The lesson to be learned from this latest fiasco is that the children of California need someone at the state level who is knowledgeable about music. It's time for the Department of Education to consider bringing on a state supervisor for music education--maybe then we could expect the state to produce meaningful guidelines that truly address the educational needs of our children.


Apel, Willi, Editor. Harvard Dictionary of Music. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969.

Gregory, Kent. "The New California Visual and Performing Arts Framework: What's in it for Choral Directors?" Santa Clara, CA: Unpublished paper presented at CMEA State Conference, 1996.

National Standards for Arts Education. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1994.

Visual and Performing Arts Framework for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 1996.