Elementary Program Changes Successful

In the spring of 2009, I approached my administration about the possibility of making a significant change in our elementary band program. I wanted to eliminate 4th grade from our program and just focus on the 5th and 6th grade. This freed up a little time in my schedule, and now I am able to see my elementary students twice a week at 30 minutes each (instead of only once). I get to see them in a small group with like instruments, and also in a full ensemble setting. I asked for this change in the hopes that it would improve the elementary program, and I have been very pleased with the results!

Without officially crunching the numbers, I can safely say that student attendance for elementary band has improved by at least 50%. I used to have students that would consistently miss lessons, and thus fall way behind their peers. This simply does not happen any more. Now, out of approximately 60 students that I have in 5th and 6th grade only 2 students have chronic attendance problems. I don’t even have to send other students to remind others of their band time – everyone shows up on time and ready to play!

Another significant improvement this year is a reduction in the number of students that I have had drop out of the program mid-year. I suspect that the attendance improvement probably has something to do with this as well. Out of all 60 students in elementary band this year, I have only had one student drop out! This is a significant change from last year as well!

Finally, the level of the music that the students can play this year is also vastly improved. In the past 5 years, most all of our concert selections consisted of two to three 8-measure exercises from our method book. Now, we are able to perform entire band arrangements and the kids love the music! I think this is strongly tied to the improved attendance and participation…the kids like to play the music (it is enjoyable for them) so they want to be there more than ever.

So in summary, I am proud to say that this change in our elementary program has been everything that I hoped it would be. This is also probably one the largest 5th and 6th grade groups that I’ve had in the last few years. Hopefully, the attendance and participation with stay high and it will translate into a larger number of students participating in our middle and high school programs.

Advertisements

Numbers…Ugh!

Today was a good day until I started doing some number-crunching.  Actually, this all really started near the first day of school.  As I was looking over my rosters, I realized that I only had 40 students in band in grades 7-12.  This was disappointing – I’ve already talked about this here.  But today, as my colleague in the orchestra department and I were discussing our elementary schedules, it occured to me that I may not have as many elementary students as I once did.  I had remembered that a few years ago that I had done some number-crunching to prepare for a meeting I was going to have.  I remember that I was proud of the increase in the number of students that were in the band program.  So, I dug out that old paperwork.  What I found was, to say the least, depressing.

My first year at my current school was 2004-2005, and that year, I had approximately 40 students in elementary band, grades 4-6.  In the 2005-2006 school year, I had about 68 students.  And, in 2006-2007, I had 137 students.  Sounds great, right?  Well, last year, I started with about 80 students, and really probably ended the year with about 65-70.  And, based on what I’ve seen for this coming year, I think I’ll be lucky if I have 60 all together.  What is going on here?  I don’t think that I have been doing anything differently.  I know that I haven’t lost that many kids up to the middle school, because I consistently have small groups of 10-12 kids in 7th grade every year.  So, why is this happening?  And why does this problem not seem to affect the orchestra program? This year, the elementary orchestra will include over 100 students.  What’s different?  We recruit the same time and do instrument sign ups the same way, so why does she have so many kids, and I do not?  I have to admit that now I am beginning to point the finger at myself.  My confidence level is low!

Here’s the scary part: What are most administrators, teachers, and parents concerned about?  Not the quality of music or even the quality of instruction in the band.  They are only concerned with numbers.  And, what am I losing for some inexplicable reason?  Numbers.  I found a list of the 137 students that I had in 2006-2007, and I decided that I would see how many of those students were still playing their instrument.  Out of 137 students, only 14 are still playing in the band program! Help!  I am looking for answers.  I am completely dumbfounded.  I think I am a good teacher.  Are my expectations too high?  Do I make the band students work too hard?  Do they not like it?  Am I not enough fun?  Does it have to do with the fact that I can only see these students once a week because of the scheduling? I’ll admit that I want to re-vamp my recruiting process heavily.  But, these numbers have fallen without any change in the recruiting program at all.

I have no idea what to do, but something has to be done quick!  I think that I should meet with my elementary principals and see if they have any insight as to what may be going on here.  Any suggestions are very much appreciated.  I am really at a loss right now!