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Tucson Unified’s music program receives national recognition


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  • Tucson Unified School District

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The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.  Acknowledged for the third consecutive year, TUSD is the only school district in Arizona to receive this recognition.

The Best Communities Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

Districts that have been recognized by the NAMM Foundation are often held up as models for other educators looking to boost their own music education programs.

Tucson Unified’s music program receives national recognition OMA_BestCommunityAward_SHARE-01-300x300To qualify for the Best Communities designation, TUSD answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program, and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

This award recognizes that TUSD is leading the way with learning opportunities as outlined in the new federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The legislation, signed into law in December 2015, replaces No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was often criticized for an overemphasis on testing—while leaving behind subjects such as music. ESSA recommends music and the arts as important elements of well-rounded education for all children.

Dr. Joan Ashcraft, TUSD Director of Fine Arts/OMA, credits this achievement to the remarkably dedicated and uniquely talented music staff that serves the District’s 49,000 students.  “Our 16 year research study, conducted initially by WestEd, Inc., has provided robust evidence to fully support the importance of music in the education of children:  academically, artistically, and socially. Our music staff realizes the life-long benefits music brings to their young musicians and the opportunity music provides for expression, understanding, and discipline. We are grateful for TUSD Central Leadership’s unwavering support of our mission and goals.”

Community music programs have been drawing increased attention because of a landmark study by Northwestern University brain scientists. These researchers found new links between students in community music programs and academic success in subjects such as reading.

Beyond the Northwestern study, other reports indicate that learning to play music can boost academic and social skills, such as processing math and learning to cooperate in group settings.

A 2015 study, “Striking A Chord”supported by the NAMM Foundation, also outlines the overwhelming desire by teachers and parents for music education opportunities for all children as part of the school curriculum.