When Atlanta elementary students return to school for the next academic year, something big is going to be missing from the curriculum: the orchestra and band programs. The closing of the programs also means that a slew of teachers are out of jobs, as reported on the NBC affiliate 11 Alive.
"We (music teachers) were blindsided—when other teachers received contracts, we received letters saying we were going to be abolished," said Arthur McClenton, an Atlanta public school teacher of music for 27 years. "We didn't know. It just hit us."
By the time his job was eliminated, McClenton had been teaching at four to five schools a week.
An Atlanta Public School statement said the district is "increasing instructional quality and efficiency" and "every APS elementary student will receive general music instruction—chorus, music appreciation, introduction to instruments."
Other reports, like from the Atlanta Business Chronicle, say that the district is eliminating 10 band teaching positions and eight orchestra teaching positions at elementary schools, meaning that some schools may be able to share other band and orchestra teachers who work for APS.
Still, the removal of such music programs is at a detriment to the students. As NPR reports, in a study published by the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that kids who took music lessons for two years didn't just get better at playing their instrument; they found that playing music also helped kids' brains process language.
And the success of children who are engaged in music comes with some impressive numbers. At Harmony Project in Los Angeles, a nonprofit after-school program that teaches music to children in low-income communities, participating kids are going on to do big things, according to NPR.
"Since 2008, 93 percent of our high school seniors have graduated in four years and have gone on to colleges like Dartmouth, Tulane, NYU—despite dropout rates of 50 percent or more in the neighborhoods where they live and where we intentionally site our programs," said Margaret Martin, founder of the Harmony Project.