Thursday, September 9, 2010

Grace Stumberg: Music in Action: WNY Org as Model in Quality

Here's a homegrown response to the growing call for education reform and accountability.

Future Schools Network, a small WNY non-profit organization with a 15-year track record of providing innovative student-centered programming, just did something that no one else has done, at least not in New York State. They received a rare "quality" certification for a 2nd time for providing leadership, career and service learning programs to area students.

The Promising Practice certification, received last month, comes from a NYS quality assurance board,, supported by the Legislature & Governor's office.

"Less than 1% of programs ever receive this award, states Dr. Felicia Watson, Technical Assistance Director for New York State's 21st Century Community Learning Centers. "Earning two is the definition of being an evidence-based 'best-practice', and a great lesson in quality and dedication to continuous improvement."


Future Schools Network, was first certified in 2007 for their Future Leaders / Student Voices program and received this second award in July for "Music in Action", a program co-authored by Future Schools Director, Bob James and Robby Takac, Founder of Music is Art.

Students also "get it", but on a more personal level, including Grace Stumberg, who was invited to open a May 2009 education conference at the State Capital with her song, "Change the World."

"For myself and others, it [Music in Action] was the reason to come to school," Stumberg was quoted. "If it weren't for the program, I wouldn't be here today and I'd probably be drifting and not knowing my own voice inside."

Official quality certification is rare, requiring ample data and analysis. Many high-profile programs like D.A.R.E. & Save the Music have not achieved similar honors.

The New York State Education Department advocates the use of proven "evidenced-based" programs. Many claim to do this, but few have the data to prove it.

"The ultimate goal of funding for educational programs should be youth development", states John Soja, former Director of the NYS Education Department's 21st Century Community Learning Centers. "Students need meaningful service learning experiences in order to nurture the academic, social and emotional skills necessary to function as productive citizens.  Future Leaders, and now Music in Action have effectively utilized grant funding to accomplish this goal."

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt said, "Buffalo should be proud of the double 'quality' certification that Future Schools Network has received.  Its work is a model of accountability and has the ability to transform the way services can be delivered in schools across the state."

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