At Voice Charter School in Queens, students learn to read music and sing complicated harmonies. Their classes are far more musically focused than other charter schools or at schools with children of that age. The education is focused on producing via their vocal chords and filling up their minds with tunes and music instead of other more broad-based topics.
Franklin Headley, the principal of the school, explains that the goal of the education at Voice is not to train children to be professionals (unless they want that) but rather the goal is more centered on helping the children narrow their focus in education. “They learn how to be really good at something. We believe that then translates into everything else.”
Headley founded the school seven years ago after learning that music and movement may be correlated to increased language acquisition skills. Headley discovered this concept while training for his role as a principal at a program called New Leaders.
The school, located in Long Island City, has almost 600 students and adds a grade each year. The goal is fulfill programs for grades kindergarten through eighth grade. The school is publically funded but privately run, like other charter schools in New York. The students are chosen through a lottery system rather than with auditions. The younger students usually have music lessons twice a day and the older kids once a day. Their school day is slightly longer than a usual day to fit in all the extra music, beginning at 7:55am and ending at 4:25pm. For those who commute, the long hours can be a little tough.
One of the main points of interest in this school is that the students did significantly better than the city average on New York State math exams last year. 70% of the students passed and only 39% passed in the whole city. Only 39% Voice students passed the English exam but they still beat the city average, which was only 30%.
The students wear uniforms and are asked to be polite and refrain from loud voices to protect their instruments (their voices). One major point of difference is that the students sing songs in different languages and that there seems to be music creeping around every corner. Students are constantly tapping their pens in a rhythmic fashion, humming even after a choir class, and just constantly creating beats. “They’re not doing it to be disruptive,” recognizes Kate Athens, one of the teachers at Voice. Athens also voices her recognition that the students demonstrate learning of other skills in addition to music skills. Some of the skills she witnesses are the ability to stick with something even if it is difficult, the ability to break a problem down into smaller components, and the ability to work well as a group.
Unfortunately spending on art supplies has fallen by 84% since 2006. 20% of public schools have no art teachers at all. These numbers were found from a report by the comptroller. Luckily Mayor Bill de Blasio has increased arts funding and claims he will hire 120 new art teachers where state law requires arts instruction. A lack of creative learning can hugely impact a person’s education.
You can read more about Voice here.