Parent questions validity of QHS music theory class

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 20, 2019 6:20 pm Updated: Mar. 21, 2019 8:32 pm

QUINCY -- The Quincy Public School District has canceled an honors music theory course and reviewed all of the Advanced Placement courses in the district after a parent complained that her daughter had benefited from the music course without doing any additional work.

"There is no textbook for this class, no curriculum, no testing. The class never meets," the mother said. "All students enrolled in the class are receiving a grade-weighted A+ for activities such as musical rehearsals, rehearsing and performing in Vespers, participating in the Octoberfest marching band parade or playing their instruments for a grade school recruiting concert. These students are already receiving grades for these very same activities within their other performing ensemble classes."

The parent met with Superintendent Roy Webb and the Quincy School Board on Feb. 27, reading to them a letter she provided to The Herald-Whig. The conversation took place in closed session because "we felt it was a personnel manner," Webb said.

He said the class was canceled, and there has been a review of AP, or advanced placement, courses in the district.

"There are no kids in the class right now. It's not a functioning class. If it's reinstated next year or kids sign up, we'll review weighting of the class," Webb said, but based on the course description, "the class itself is fine."

According to the QHS Curriculum Guide, the class is open for seniors only and students with instructor permission.

"This course will allow serious music students to pursue their interest in an academic atmosphere in preparation for college music programs," the guide says.

The course requires full participation in two of three performance groups -- concert choir, concert orchestra or concert band -- along with private instruction in voice or the instrument the student will be majoring in, the study of music theory and history during classes that meet in addition to performance groups, preparation for the AP music exam and participation in the Advanced Placement Music Recital or Illinois High School Association Solo Contest.

Music theory is basically the "science" of music, where students learn chord structure, part writing and scale writing.

Webb said the class is "almost like" competency-based education classes, which provide more flexibility in completing coursework to earn credits toward graduation.

"There are requirements for kids to show their ability in the music field," Webb said.

But whether students grow as musicians in the class "is going to have to be a discussion between Mr. Steinke (QHS Principal Jody Steinke) and whoever will be the instructor of the class if it's offered again," Webb said. "We review all of our classes, especially honors classes and AP classes, to make sure the classes have the proper rigor to be given that moniker."

Steinke and his administrative team review weighting of classes.

Classes are reviewed periodically, but "I wouldn't say every class every year," Webb said.

"(The parent) brought some issues forward. We'll want to review those issues," Webb said. "If it is re-offered, we'll have to think about how it's offered, what the name of the course is and how it's characterized in the course catalog."

Webb said he hasn't heard concerns about the class from students or other parents.

"If there is a concern, they're welcome to come talk to me about the class," he said.