Two years ago, CEA and AFT CT partnered on an exciting program—TeachRock—that helps educators bring classroom lessons to life with music and the arts. Now, Governor Lamont and the State Department of Education have agreed to make Connecticut first in the nation to implement the program statewide.
“This is a fun, free, high-quality program that many of our teachers have participated in, starting in 2019,” says CEA Teacher Development Specialist Kate Field. “That’s when we first approached TeachRock about offering workshops to our members. We were so impressed with the quality and variety of lessons. Developed by educators, they connect teachers with students, and students with learning.”
Founded by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steven Van Zandt, TeachRock is based on a standards-aligned curriculum that connects history, popular music, and culture in a way that resonates with students and supports their social emotional development. The idea came to Van Zandt after realizing he did poorly in school until one of his teachers helped him connect music to various school subjects. He became far more engaged in academics as he looked at learning through the lens of music. A mission of his nonprofit organization is to empower teachers to infuse music into the curriculum as a way of engaging students and building their cultural competency.
“Kids come to school with the gifts of imagination, instinct, emotion, and curiosity already in place,” says Van Zandt. “Let’s use what they have and design education around it.” TeachRock curriculum consists of over 140 interactive lessons, curated by subject and theme and aligned with Common Core or NGSS standards. Many different genres of music, including rock, rap, hip hop, salsa, and reggaeton, are included.
One of the consequences of NCLB legislation and an overemphasis on standardized testing has been the diminishment of arts and music programs. TeachRock curriculum keeps arts in the DNA of public education, says Van Zandt, adding, “Someday we will realize testing isn’t learning.”
Van Zandt, a staunch supporter of public education, teachers—whom he describes as underappreciated and underpaid—and teachers’ unions, praised Connecticut for embodying the passion and priorities inherent in programs like TeachRock. “Let’s do all we can to help our teachers, who are our soldiers on the front lines in the war against ignorance. Boy, do we need them these days, as they continue to stimulate, inspire, and motivate young minds.”
“We are so appreciative of all you are doing for kids in Connecticut,” Governor Lamont told Van Zandt in a press conference earlier this week. “TeachRock inspires young people. They don’t need more STEM, or more Zoom. They have to get together and socialize with each other. I think music inspires every day. This is just what we need right now, to get kids smiling again.”
Each year, districts can apply to participate in the TeachRock partnership, and the number of TeachRock schools will increase annually as the program expands across Connecticut. Partner districts will take part in focused professional learning to design engaging instruction and implement TeachRock curricula, which will all be available in an online library.
The SDE plans to release applications for districts to participate in this partnership. The first cohort will comprise up to 10 districts.