Preliminary Findings

I have written surveys for work before, but writing one like this to find out information that I was genuinely interested in was a new experience. I sent out my survey last week to the music faculty of my district, along with sharing it on Twitter. Although I have not received many responses as of today (April 14, 2019), there will be more responses when my colleagues and I return from spring break.

I already knew my district was diverse but my survey question on “What religions do your students’ families practice?” reminded me how amazing it is to teach such a varied population. Kent School District is the 11th most diverse district in the country, according to Niche. With my responses so far, this is the religious breakdown of our student population:

Responses to “Please select any religions practiced by families enrolled your school.” Graph by author, 2019

Sikh is not an option I listed in the survey, but two educators listed it in the “Other” category. I created my religion list options from Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, with the intent being to cover the most common religions in the United States. Including an “other” option was still important because of the nature of the survey, especially if students who practice an unlisted religion did not participate in musical activities.

Pie chart of grade level taught by educators who filled out the survey. Chart by the author, 2019

I also took some time to look at the demographic results of the music educators who have completed the survey. Five people are elementary teachers, with one middle school and one high school teacher. Music is a required subject for elementary schools in Washington state so I assumed this issue would affect elementary teachers more often than secondary teachers. It was encouraging to find out this is an issue that music educators face K-12. The two secondary educators also would allow students to sit out of any activities that were against their religious beliefs, but give a “No credit” for their grade for that assignment. There is also a wide range of experience in the people surveyed, from second year teachers to faculty who have been teaching for 33 years. I think this will be valuable at how I look at the educators’ responses to “What is your policy when a student or parent says there is a religious exemption for a musical activity? (This can be your personal policy or the school/district policy)”.

That question yielded some interesting results! Only one educator mentioned that they had a district policy, the others explained what they do to accommodate their students. Two educators mentioned parent involvement or discussion of removing the students from an activity. One of the responses the educator said, “The student/s do not participate. Usually there is a heads up from the student or parent.” Is this the most productive thing the student can be doing? How often is this happening? If I had the time to interview individual educators about their situations, I would love to look into this further.

On the other hand, the district policy was very clear. The answer given said “District policy allows them to be exempt from music with permission from the principal. A letter with the reason must be given to the principal. This information must also be given to the music teacher and homeroom teacher to come up with an alternative placement. Then, the student will receive an “N” for “Not Assessed” for music, with the description included with the grade.” I think this is one solution to our larger question, which I laid out in my blog post Deciding on Only One Wicked Problem.

I am hoping for more ideas and options as more educators fill out the survey this week to develop a solution that will work not only for me, but for other educators in the same predicament.

References:

Luft, Lindsay. (2019, April 7). Deciding on Only One Wicked Problem. Retrieved from https://lindsayluft.com/2019/04/07/deciding-on-only-one-wicked-problem/

Niche. (2019). 2019 Most Diverse School Districts in America – Niche [search results]. Retrieved from https://www.niche.com/k12/search/most-diverse-school-districts/

Pew Research Center. (n.d.). Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics, and Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

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