During the past decade there has been much discussion about the need for reform in the nation’s schools. School-based decision making (SBDM) is mentioned in much of the literature on school restructuring as a means of empowering teaching professionals and thereby increasing school effectiveness. Amid the reasons given for implementing SBDM is an increase in teacher empowerment and morale as a factor in improving teaching and learning. This paper explored the question “How does school-based decision making affect elementary vocal music instruction?” Specific areas pertaining to instruction that were examined was the effects of school-based decision making on curriculum, budget, staffing and scheduling.
I conducted preliminary interviews with many elementary music teachers to identify those who were working in a site-based managed school and who were willing to participate in the written survey. Surveys were sent to twenty-eight elementary music teachers in the state of Minnesota to explore how the school-based decision making process works in their buildings, how they relate to it, and how they perceive its impact in the musical instructional program. Music educators’ participation and influence in decision making are noted.
Responding music educators indicated they had improved their programs since SBDM was implemented in 24 percent of the cases. In 40 percent of the cases they had not improved their programs. Numerous respondents alluded to the fact that the music teacher, usually alone in his/her assignment, is simply outnumbered. The response to the survey indicates a need for a department connection and departmental support. Several music teachers surveyed from districts that did not have a coordinator indicated the need for that leadership.
The effects on elementary music instruction are as varied as the SBDM programs and schools they represent. Based on this survey, the success of the elementary music program in an SBDM school appears to be - dependent on the music teacher. The music teacher should have a strong sense of mission and be able to articulate that mission effectively and clearly. Where collegiality is deficient in a building staff, the music teacher will have greater difficulty and, without outside support, will probably become discouraged and perhaps even less effective. Therefore, failure of a music program in an SBDM school should not be attributed to the music teacher.