Music Education For All

Some facts:

– Most high schools have some sort of music offering.

– Music is not a required class for the majority of high schools.

– There are few, if any, online programs offering a full catalog of music classes (spanning more courses than guitar, theory, or piano.) And most are introductory classes.

– The majority (~80%) of high school students do not participate in the music offerings available at their school.

– Arts budgets, of which music is a part of, typically get defunded, reduced (or removed) before other core classes or athletic departments.

 

We know the importance and power of playing a musical instrument (if you missed that post, click here), so why, then are we not making music a requirement? There are several answers to this question: students may not want to participate in music in a group setting, students may not have access to the instrument they want to take, students may be taking music privately and are therefor disinterested from taking music at school, too. So why not provide each of those student profiles the opportunity to earn high school credit for the instrument they choose, with the ability to study at a pace that’s right for them and with a private instructor of their choosing (but with not requirement to have a face-to-face instructor)?

Who Is Educational Advantage?

Educational Advantage was founded in 1992 by an educator worth mentioning: Melanie Moffat. You may be able to track her down on social media or Google, but if you visited Park City, Utah, and polled any number of students (current or past), they would likely know Mel and would attest to just how significantly she changed their lives. I know I would.

From there, and it’s noble mission to help students succeed, it passed to new owners and gained a new mission: to earn accreditation and become an online high school—which happened in 2015.

And now today, November 30, 2017. We have launched Educational Advantage School of Music to take our mission of helping students succeed one step further into the realm of music education. Our mission for our School of Music is to transform lives through the power of music education. Simple, yes. Powerful, definitely.

We hope you stay tuned to learn more about EA, as our local students call us, and to hopefully become involved whether as a student, private teacher, or advocate of our mission.

Transfer Credit: How it Works

When you choose to take a class outside of the school you attend—typically in the online environment—the most important thing to verify is whether your school will accept the transfer credit.  Second on the list is to verify which graduation requirement the class will fulfill (i.e.: elective, science, art, etc.).  But how do those processes work?

While I can’t speak for every school in the nation, I can say that things generally follow a similar protocol..  The first step is to find the class(es) you plan to take, verify if the school is accredited, and relay that information to your high school counselor.  Likely he/she

  • Will want to understand why you are choosing to take an online class (if that conversation hasn’t already happened)
  • May need to reach out to the online school to verify course information or address any other questions
  • May need to seek approval from the principal

 

Because most schools are accredited by an external agency, and those agencies call for a protocol on accepting transfer credits from both accredited and non-accredited schools, there is likely already a policy in place.

So what happens if your counselor tells you that the course is not approved and/or will not be added to your transcript?  Now you have a choice to make, but not before you measure the reason you’re taking the class.  If the reason you are taking the class is to satisfy a graduation requirement, you can work harder to get the class approved.  This may mean working with the principal or even superintendent of your school district (I’ve even seen students and parents take their case to the state board of education).  If the reason you’re taking the class is to learn about something not offered at your school, to increase/specialize in a topic that is offered at your school but not to the level you’d like to learn, or if it’s to stand out on a college, internship, or job application, it may be just as well to go ahead and take it even though it won’t be recorded on your school’s transcript.  You will likely still receive an official transcript from the online school that can and should be used for any application process, resume, or portfolio.

Have you had issues transferring credit?  Do you have more questions about the process?  Leave a comment below and we’ll respond.

Accreditation: What is it?

Accreditation: What is it?

Chances are, you’ve never considered whether or not your school is accredited.  But what isaccreditation and how does a school get accredited?

If you Google the word accreditation, it is defined as “the action or process of officially recognizing someone as having a particular status or being qualified to perform a particular activity; an acknowledgement of a person’s responsibility for or achievement of something.”  In a nutshell, accredited schools have been externally reviewed by a team of education professionals against a strict set of criteria aimed to improve accountability and quality.  These standards include a variety of categories and evolve to ensure they are current with best-practice methods and research.  The accreditation process is not a ‘one and done’ event, either.  These reviews happen every few years to ensure schools are adhering to the standards and also continuously improving.  In exchange, schools can retain the status of being accredited.

As a brief side note, there are four main accrediting agencies in the United States:

  • AdvancED
    • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools – 19 States
    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – 11 States
    • Northwest Accreditation Commission – 7 States (our accreditation)
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools – 5 States
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges – 6 States
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges – 2 States

Do you have any questions about accreditation?  Any comments?

Blended Learning

In its simplest definition, blended learning is when a student takes an online course with face-to-face support from a tutor, teacher, parent, or friend. According to iNACOL (International Association for K-12 Online Learning), one of the most important parts of blended learning is the “ ’element of student control’ emphasizing the shifting instructional models to enable increased student-centered learning, giving students increased control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of their learning pathways.” In other words, the student is in the driver’s seat.  If this is a scary thought, keep reading to understand how the blended learning model supports student-centered learning.

When students move to an online environment for all or some of their high school course work, there is a learning curve: time management, goal setting, self-motivation, communication.  It calls for a lot of skills that are often still coming together for most teenagers, which is why having a mentor, tutor, or teacher is so powerful. Having support–both for accountability and instruction–is often the game-changer for students. This blended concept allows them to still maintain responsibility for their courses while having consistent access to someone who can answer their questions, personalize their learning, or review an assignment.

We are obviously proponents of online courses, but also never sought to remove the teacher from the equation.  Instead, we created a database of qualified instructors for our students to use so that they could find someone in their area who could support their music education in a powerful way.

Have you learned in a blended learning environment? Do you have questions about blended learning? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Online: Why Go Online & How to Choose a High School

Recent research indicates that online course enrollment is not slowing down, and that 1 in 4 students took an online class (during high school) in 2016. This statistic surprised me. Even in my own community (about 20,000 residents), many of them and their parents don’t know that online courses are an option and/or how great they can be.

So, why do students turn online, and why isn’t it made more readily available? Student often take an online class because it’s a graduation requirement, or because their schedule doesn’t allow them to take everything they want. Some students don’t have access to the classes they want to take, or they require a non-traditional schedule because of athletics, medical needs, or a personal preference. In these scenarios, most of the student or parent/guardian is very proactive in looking for and finding a solution that will allow their student to take the class they want. Many others may benefit from the online environment, but don’t know that it’s an option.

When considering an online class, whether one or several, your decision should be based on a few key ideas:

1.) Is the class from an accredited institution? Accreditation means the school has met the standards and expectations of a external review team and is also recognized by most other accredited (and non-accredited) schools (high schools and universities) in the country. This is important because it means the credit you earn online will likely be accepted more willingly from an accredited school than one who is not accredited.

2.) Does the school provide the environment you’re looking for? The nature of online learning often provides a more autonomous learning experience. Be sure that you know whether our classes are self-paced, asynchronous or synchronous, and how long they are active so that you can complete them successfully.

3.) Do they offer the classes you want/need? Most online high school offer all core class requirements, and even many electives and foreign language classes. If you are looking for niche classes, it’s best to do some research so that you know what’s available to you. In some cases there are state schools that provide free tuition. In the case of a private online high school, tuitions generally vary from $135 to more than $400 per semester.

High School: The Landscape is Changing

So much has changed, and continues to change, in the realm of education, and for the sake of this particular post–high school education.  Even considering my own high school experience sixteen years ago (has it been that long), with the options students have today, the landscape is completely different.

Let’s start with the number of choices students have today.  I’m mostly referring to the opportunity to take a very traditional high school experience and customize it.  Students can take online classes.  They can attend a school for the arts, a private prep school, or boarding school.  Students can attend schools that conform to their sports schedule, or even opt to home school.  There are endless possibilities.  So which is the right one?  Or better yet, is there a right one?

The biggest reason to leave your public high school is either to better align yourself with a school that supports your passion (sports, performing, etc.) or your academic or religious alignment (private school, prep school, home school).  When this is not an option, whether because of proximity, budget, or other factors, there are always other avenues.  You might consider an extracurricular club or group, whether through your school or community.  Or, you can look to online opportunities to find the classes you’re seeking or simply to reduce the classes you’re taking at school.  Whenever I meet with students, I ask them a few questions to help determine the best course of action.  You can download that questionnaire for free if you’re interested.

How do you access your education?  What led you to that decision?  We’d love to hear from you in our comments.

Music Education: Why It’s SO Important

 

So the question becomes, why isn’t music important enough?

“Playing a music instrument is the brains equivalent of a full body work out,” says the amazing Ted Ed video written by Dr. Anita Collins, internationally recognized music educator and researcher. This means that playing a music instrument literally engages every aspect of your brain in such a powerful way, that it quite literally looks different than those who do not play an instrument. Not to mention that playing an instrument leads to improved cognitive function, memory, ability to solve complex problems, communication between brain hemispheres, ability to learn language, and much more.

Check out the video below for the quick 4-minute run down on just how powerful and beneficial music actually is:

VIDEO GOES HERE

But aside from the obvious research-based benefits of music education is the more intimate power of music.  You can read our inspiration here, but it boils down to the fact that music changes lives.  Music unites people, whether as an one in a crowd listening to live music, the connection you feel plugged in to your headphones and enjoying on your own, or the sheer release and profound creative connection you feel playing your instrument of choice.  Music holds within itself the ability to connect and transform.  And we think that’s a something worthy of pursuing and making available to students all over the country.  And one day, the world.

Balance

If you know what a plimsol line is, without reading any further, pat yourself on the back and email me for a free course. If not, a plimsol line is a literal marking on the side a ship that indicates the limit to which that vessel can be loaded to maintain buoyancy, amongst other things. I heard about a plimsol lines a few months ago on an NPR show, and have since been fascinated with it. More so because anecdotally, I think it’s important to understand what your plimsol line is. If we could see your line, would you be in the safe zone? Or would you be taking on water with your line lowering below the surface?

In this life that we live, there are times that our lines dip or that waves are threatening to compromise the safety that the plimsol line represents. This is normal. We all go through crazy hard or challenging moments (admittedly, sometimes the moments seem like years). But, if our line is underwater more than it’s above, it’s time to reevaluate. Don’t’ jump ship, but consider what can be tossed overboard to allow your line to stay where it needs to.

Elective Versus Fine Art

Elective credits are the category of credits that typically fall outside core and other required classes. In other words, students can choose what they want to take, and, depending on their school, may even be able to focus on a particular subject or topic throughout several semesters. Other times, electives are simply an opportunity for students to take several non-related classes as they work to refine their interests.

Fine Arts classes are typically broken into two different categories: visual arts and performing arts. Occasionally there’s a category of media arts, focusing on classes like film, production, or broadcasting. Fine Arts is your chance to study music/choir, drawing, painting, ceramics, jewelry, or even drama. And just because your school has a minimum requirement in this category, doesn’t mean you can’t take more classes. It just means that anything above the Fine Arts requirement will push to the elective category.

Chances are, you are required to take both elective and fine art classes, but the exact number of credits varies from school to school. Our advice: take advantage of both categories. Use these classes as an opportunity to take chances on a class you’re interested in, to learn from a teacher you may otherwise not have the option of studying with, or to simply expand your knowledge.

And in case you’re wondering, our catalog of music classes typically satisfies both categories.