Music Standards

On October 23, I began a blog post trying to collect my thoughts around our work in standards over the past four years. As I have organized (and reorganized) those thoughts, the post has evolved into plans for a presentation at the 2017 Iowa Bandmasters Association conference as well as a companion website of "how" we did our work in standards. This is the third in a series of posts detailing the "how." The first two post detail our district's process for curriculum review and looking at the Iowa Core Curriculum.

In 1994, the then Music Educators National Conference (MENC), adopted the following music content standards (numbers) and achievement standards (letters)

In 2014, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards published new National Core Arts Standards for dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts. The NCCAS developed an excellent document detailing their work entitled A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning. To summarize:

  • The Artistic Processes were identified from the 1997 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Arts assessment and definitions were expanded.

    • Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.

    • Performing (dance, music, theatre): Realizing artistic ideas and work through interpretation and presentation.

    • Presenting (visual arts): Interpreting and sharing artistic work.

    • Producing (media arts): Realizing and presenting artistic ideas and work.

    • Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.

    • Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.

    • Anchor Standards "describe the general knowledge and skill that teachers expect students to demonstrate throughout their education in the arts."

    • Performance Standards "are discipline-specific (dance, media arts, music, visual arts, theatre), grade-by-grade articulations of student achievement in the arts PK-8 and at three proficiency levels in high school (proficient, accomplished and advanced). As such, the performance standards translate the anchor standards into specific, measurable learning goals."

    • Instructional Resources "are provided to support teachers as they build understanding about the new standards and consider multiple ways to implement the standards in their classrooms."

      • Enduring Understandings "are statements summarizing important ideas and core processes that are central to a discipline and have lasting value beyond the classroom."

      • Essential Questions "are those that encourage, hint at, even demand transfer beyond the particular topic in which students first encounter them, and therefore, should recur over the years to promote conceptual connections and curriculum coherence." (based on Wiggins & McTighe, Understanding by Design, ASCD, 2005)

      • Model Cornerstone Assessments as described by Jay McTighe in Understanding by Design:

        • are curriculum embedded (as opposed to externally imposed);

        • recur over the grades, becoming increasingly sophisticated over time;

        • establish authentic contexts for performance;

        • assess understanding and transfer via genuine performance;

        • integrate 21st century skills (e.g., critical thinking, technology use, teamwork) with subject area content;

        • evaluate performance with established rubrics;

        • engage students in meaningful learning while encouraging the best teaching;

        • provide content for a student’s portfolio (so that they graduate with a resume of demonstrated accomplishments rather than simply a transcript of courses taken).

      • Process Components "are the actions artists carry out as they complete each artistic process."

        • Creating: Imagine; Plan and Make; Evaluate and Refine, and Present

        • Performing: Select; Analyze; Interpret; Rehearse, Evaluate, and Refine; and Present

        • Responding: Select; Analyze; Interpret; and Evaluate

      • Glossaries

I would highly recommend digging into the National Core Arts Standards website. It goes far more in depth than I can or will in this post. Below are a few infographics to help give a better idea of the standards.


The resource that we will focus on comes from their identified discipline of Traditional and Emerging Ensembles. There are also resources for PreK-8 General Music, Harmonizing Instruments, Composition and Theory, Music Technology, Dance, Media Arts, Theatre, and Visual Arts. Each resource takes each Artistic Process (Creating, Performing/Presenting/Producing, Responding, and Connecting) with their corresponding Anchor StandardsEnduring Understandings, and Essential Questions and aligns them to Process Components to generate Performance Standards at different proficiency levels. For example:


The words bolded in red are defined in the available glossaries.

As we begin to delve into the National Core Arts Standards, I will update the blog with the work we do.

State Standards

States have developed their own standards for music education prior to, out of, or in reaction to the National Core Arts Standards. As part of the creation of the new standards, the NCCAS reviewed several states' arts standards including Colorado (2009), Florida (2009), Michigan (2011), New Jersey (2009), New York City (2007), North Carolina (2005), Tennessee, and Washington. A simple Google search will turn up results from other states.

In our state of Iowa, the Department of Education has chosen to align the Fine Arts with the Iowa Core Universal Constructs. From their website for the Fine Arts:

The Fine Arts Alignment with the Iowa Core Universal Constructs documents were written to illustrate how fine arts teachers can align their instruction to the universal constructs from the Iowa Core. By showing connections between the universal constructs and fine arts, these documents demonstrate how fine arts support the implementation of the Iowa Core. Fine arts are particularly well-suited in supporting students in developing the universal constructs important for success in the 21st Century.

They provide companion documents for Drama and Theatre, General Music, Instrumental-Vocal Music, and Visual Arts. I took a deeper look in my previous post on the Iowa Core.

UPDATE: February 16, 2017. The Iowa Department of Education announced today a team to develop fine arts standards for schools. While I wish a member from our vertical team was able to contribute to this work, I am excited to see what comes from this Fine Arts Standards Adoption Team.

Next, we will look at what we developed as part of our previous curriculum review process in 2012-2013.


Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.