Mitchell Robinson, Ph.D.

Welcome to my web page! For links to my blog, please click here: Keep Talking.


I also blog on education policy and politics at Eclectablog, a Michigan progressive news and commentary website.


You may also use the links above to find resources on graduate study and advising at Michigan State University as well as information on our current doctoral students and graduates in music education.


There is also a link to a page devoted to the distribution of clinic and workshop materials, handouts, research presentations, and other music education resources. All materials are offered free of charge and may be duplicated as needed, with proper citations and acknowledgements.


Publications and Social Media Coverage

Media Interviews


June 13, 2017: Interviewed by Ben Wermund, a reporter from, on higher education funding in Michigan.


May 27, 2017: Appeared as a guest on the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s radio show, Keep Hope Alive Radio with Jesse Jackson, to discuss Betsy DeVos’ role in the attacks on public education, the privatization of the public schools, vouchers, and charter schools. (


May 15, 2017: Interviewed by Avi Asher-Schapiro, a reporter from VICE News, for my perspectives on the influence of the “gig economy” in K-12 and higher education in the United States.


February, 2017: Radio interview on Betsy DeVos with WORT 89.9 FM, A Public Affair


February, 2017: TV interview on Betsy DeVos with Danielle Masterson, WHDT World News


February, 2017: Radio interview on Betsy DeVos with Air Cascadia, KBOO Radio


November, 2016: Interviewed by Ben Wermund from on Betsy DeVos’ education policy history in Michigan.


January, 2015: Invited article and interview for Michigan Radio’s The Next Idea, on the importance of music education in Michigan’s schools; Link to article and audio recording of interview: 


October, 2013: WKAR Current State interview on Lansing School District cuts; Link to audio archive:


May, 2013: Response to the Lansing School District's decision to eliminate 47 elementary music, art and physical education teaching positions in Spring 2013; Link to editorial and radio interview:


Also: Associated Press, Bridge for Michigan, WKAR’s State of Opportunity, The American Prospect, District Administration magazine, Education Town Hall at We Act radio, Institute for Public Accuracy, The Nathan Ivey Show, The Thom Hartmann Show, Michigan News Connection, WHDT World News, Friday Eight O'Clock Buzz on Madison, WI public radio, and other radio, newspaper, and television sources on education policy issues.



Popular Media Publications


Beneath the 'heartwarming' teacher stories, there's a real issue with the way public school teachers are treated

Aug. 22, 2018: My essay on Eclectablog was republished by Business Insider.


The Empress Has No Clothes

February 2, 2017: An essay that I co-authored on Betsy DeVos with T. Jameson Brewer, The Empress Has No Clothes, was published by the Huffington Post, a major online news provider.


Privatize, monetize, weaponize: How the DeVos family devoured Michigan's schools

Dec. 6, 2016: My essay was shared by the Daily Kos on their website:


Can it get more absurd? Now music teachers are being tested based on math and reading scores

October 21, 2015: My article on music teacher evaluation was published on The Conversation—a new media platform. This essay has also been republished on Blue Nation Review.


How ridiculous would it be if we did this to our schools? (Oh wait, we did.)

Oct. 13, 2015: My essay was published in the Washington Post’s education column, “The Answer Sheet,” at


The Most Wonderful Blog of the (New School) Year

September 7, 2015: EdWeek


A professor’s encounter with two Teach For America recruiters

Oct. 17, 2014: Guest column in the Washington Post’s education column, “The Answer Sheet,” edited by Valerie Strauss; Link to article:


Okemos Parents for Schools

January 20, 2014: This column, a response to a Thomas Friedman column on education policy in the New York Times, received over 16,000 page views in 4 days; link to column: 



Pod Casts


Feb. 1, 2019: Ed’s (Not) Dead, interview on Betsy DeVos and her 2 year anniversary as Secretary of Education


Nov. 30, 2018: GOTMFV Podcast, “Top Five Worst Things Betsy DeVos has Done Since She Took Office”


Oct. 15, 2018: BustED Pencils, interviewed by Tim Slekar, Dean of Education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin, Episode 73: We’re (Teachers) Not Worthy,


Aug. 27, 2018: BustED Pencils, interviewed by Tim Slekar, Dean of Education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin, Episode 69: Tim’s Brother from another Mother


Aug. 21, 2018: GOTMFV Podcast, A George Wallace rally looked a LOT like a Trump rally – with special guests historian Kevin M. Kruse & educator Mitchell Robinson


Mar. 27, 2018: GOTMFV Podcast, Are we misunderestimating Betsy DeVos and the GOP? – with special guest Mitchell Robinson


Dec. 5, 2016: The Sit and Spin Room Podcast, Trump’s pick for Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos UNVEILED & REVEALED with special guest Prof. Mitchell Robinson



Diane Ravitch


Publication of my essays on education policy issues by Diane Ravitch, arguably the most influential blogger on education policy in the United States—these pieces may be accessed here:



Mitchell Robinson: Charter Schools in Michigan Have Done More Harm Than Good

September 17, 2018


Mitchell Robinson: What We Need to Do Instead of Opening Charter Schools

August 6, 2018


Mitchell Robinson: Why Schools Are Not Like Uber or Lyft, or, the Hoax of “Choice”

March 20, 2018


Mitchell Robinson: The Right Way to Arm Teachers—But Not with Guns

February 23, 2018


Mitchell Robinson: The Educational Malpractice of Eva Moskowitz

December 15, 2017


Mitchell Robinson: The Reformers’ Great Lie: “It’s All About the Kids”

October 14, 2017


Mitchell Robinson: The Danger of Silencing Teachers

April 20, 2017 


Mitchell Robinson: The Best Argument Yet for Public Schools

April 12, 2017 


Mitchell Robinson: Some Advice for Betsy DeVos

February 27, 2017 


Mitchell Robinson’s New Year’s Resolutions

January 1, 2017


Mitchell Robinson: How Betsy and Dick DeVos Devoured the Schools of Michigan

December 6, 2016 


Mitchell Robinson: From Michigan, This is the Real Betsy DeVos

November 23, 2016 


Hey, Matt Lauer, You Have Been Hoaxed!

November 11, 2016 


Mitchell Robinson: The Charter Debate Is Over

October 1, 2016 


Mitchell Robinson: How Private Prisons are Like Charter Schools

August 21, 2016 


Mitchell Robinson: The Brave New World of Student Teacher Evaluation

June 29, 2016 


Mitchell Robinson: Who’s Who in the Education Wars

October 27, 2015 


Mitchell Robinson: How the Reform Agenda of Churn and Chaos Undermined Detroit Public Schools

August 21, 2015 


Mitchell Robinson: What You Need to Know about “Achievement School Districts”

July 25, 2015 


Michigan: An Eye-Opening Charter Scam

February 26, 2015 


Mitchell Robinson: What Does an Education Professor Say to TFA Recruiters?

October 20, 2014 





Publication of my essays on politics and education policy issues on Eclectablog, a Michigan political website—these essays can be read at:


Let’s talk about Teach for America…

November 23, 2018


Please save me from the wisdom of self-appointed education experts, Part 293

November 20, 2018


Hug a music teacher today…

November 15, 2018


Bill Schuette, and His Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Ideas About Education in Michigan

November 5, 2018


No, we can’t “just be civil”…and here’s why

October 26, 2018


Tales of a foolish traveler: Or, random notes from a week in Shanghai…

October 14, 2018


Betsy DeVos doesn’t know what she doesn’t know about education

October 4, 2018


Let’s fund education like we value it

September 20, 2018


The continuing (mis)education of Eva Moskowitz…

September 13, 2018


BREAKING: “Trump Is A Snob Who Secretly Despises His Supporters,” and other surprises

August 30, 2018


Pay teachers more? Absolutely, but let’s do it for the right reasons

August 21, 2018


Please stop with the “heartwarming” teacher stories: this is no way to treat professionals

August 16, 2018


Schools aren’t “fast-food franchises,” charter schools aren’t public schools,and education isn’t a business

August 11, 2018


Why are *you* angry? Are you Red or Blue?

July 14, 2018


Diane Ravitch, fennel, and Cory Booker

July 3, 2018


Please save us from self-appointed “education experts”…

July 2, 2018


Trump Appoints “Dance Mom” to Head National Endowment for the Arts

June 28, 2018


Are we headed toward a “Civil War”…or are we already there?

June 25, 2018


The Politics of Teacher Walkouts Make Mike & Randi Uneasy Bedmates

April 28, 2018


An “Achievement School District” Primer, Or Why Charterizing Your School District is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea

April 27, 2018


A Simple Solution to Fix the Problem of our Failing Public Education System

April 18, 2018


Why underestimating Betsy DeVos is not just wrong–it’s dangerous

March 22, 2018


Betsy DeVos says charter schools are the Uber or Lyft of “school choice”–and that’s not a good thing

March 18, 2018


Betsy DeVos attacks teachers as “defenders of the status quo”–here’s why that makes no sense

March 14, 2018


The sinister motive behind Trump & DeVos’ plan to “harden schools”

March 13, 2018


Betsy DeVos is wrong about competition improving public schools

March 12, 2018


The stunning hypocrisy of Betsy DeVos

March 9, 2018


Enough with the bonuses, Mr. President*!

February 22, 2018


Arm Teachers? Yes! (But not with guns…)

February 16, 2018


Naming the Toxic Male Elephant in the Room

February 16, 2018


Engler Wrong Choice for MSU

January 31, 2018


The Educational Malpractice of Ms. Moskowitz

December 9, 2017


Roy Moore: Poster Child for Republican, Conservative, and Christian Values

November 12, 2017


Whose Truth is Marching On? A GOP Primer on Veracity

November 11, 2017 


Betsy DeVos thinks schools are like food trucks: here’s why she’s wrong

October 1, 2017


Zombie Education Reform Strategy #459

September 14, 2017


Let’s talk about apologies and do-overs…

August 22, 2017


Too little, too late, Mr. Trump…

August 14, 2017 


They aren’t angry about statues

August 13, 2017 


Want to improve Michigan’s schools? Ask teachers, not Gov. Snyder

August 4, 2017


There’s a lot to criticize about Donald Trump–why play the gender card?

July 28, 2017


Some unpopular thoughts on teacher evaluation

June 4, 2017 


The “Brave New World” of Teacher Evaluation

May 22, 2017 


The media’s infatuation with “data”, and why it’s so wrong

May 11, 2017 


Beware the “Gig Economy” version of education

May 10, 2017 


Betsy DeVos flip-flops on school choice

May 6, 2017 


Myths and facts about opting out of standardized tests

May 4, 2017 


What you need to know about accountability, tests, and music

April 27, 2017 


Closing schools is not an educational option

April 15, 2017 


When teacher silencing becomes dangerous…

April 13, 2017 


The biggest loss in education is the loss of teachers’ voices

April 12, 2017 


A tale of two schools…

April 8, 2017 


Are “Big Data” and “metrics” the new religion in education reform?

March 19, 2017 


What’s “choice” got to do with it, Paul Ryan?

March 14, 2017 


East Coast elites, intellectuals, and “smug liberals”: Oh My!

March 9, 2017 


Who knew it could be so complicated?: DeVos edition

March 3, 2017 


Only in Betsy DeVos’ Michigan can schools be “reformed” by closing them

March 3, 2017 


Private school vouchers: A solution in search of a problem

February 25, 2017 


Betsy, Betsy, Betsy…

February 23, 2017 


Teachers and the “social contract”: A parable

February 21, 2017 


What Trump and our society can learn from the arts

February 9, 2017 


Betsy DeVos is approved by the Senate: What do we do now?

February 7, 2017 


It’s Not All About the Kids, Part 2

February 5, 2017 


It’s Not All About the Kids

February 4, 2017 


Betsy DeVos’ spokesperson, Ed Patru, works for a Washington “crisis management” firm that specializes in building “astroturf” groups

January 29, 2017 


Betsy DeVos is not just unqualified, she’s dangerous

January 22, 2017 


Flush this, Mr. President

January 21, 2017 


Stacking the jury in the voucher wars

January 15, 2017 


No, Betsy DeVos is not qualified to be Secretary of Education

January 14, 2017 


How the reformers devalue teaching experience: Forbes edition

January 4, 2017 


My New Year’s Eve resolutions for public education

December 31, 2016 


Another fake news voucher story from the Great Lakes Education Project and Betsy DeVos

December 27, 2016 


Why do we need National Standards in music?

December 24, 2016 


Why we must NOT give Betsy DeVos and school choice “a chance”

December 17, 2016 


Betsy DeVos, Steve Ingersoll, and Michigan as a “cautionary tale” for American education

December 16, 2016 


Who’s narrating the “Teacher Shortage” narrative?

December 9, 2016 


The “false equivalencies” of education policy: Betsy DeVos edition

December 8, 2016 


Privatize, Monetize, Weaponize: How the DeVos family devoured Michigan’s schools

December 5, 2016 


The truth about school “choice”

December 2, 2016 


Dick and Betsy DeVos avoided paying school taxes on summer home

November 25, 2016 


Trump names Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education: It’s Game, Set, Match for public education

November 23, 2016 


Mike Pence is gaslighting us all

November 20, 2016 


Guess who’s the most worried about Donald Trump becoming our next President?

November 12, 2016 


The Today Show’s Matt Lauer deceptively pitches Shinola partnership as providing scholarships to needy Detroit kids

November 5, 2016 


The 2 biggest losers in this campaign: Respect and tolerance

November 1, 2016 


It’s not about you: More adventures in institutional privilege, music education edition

October 31, 2016 


The charter school debate is over

September 30, 2016 


The paradoxical world of education reform

September 20, 2016 


Sorry, when it comes to education policy, this IS personal

September 12, 2016 


Charter school funding fiascos: Misplaced priorities and warped values

September 11, 2016 



See below for links to book chapters, articles, recent radio interviews and media coverage on education policy and other related issues.

Some unpopular thoughts on teacher evaluation

My essay on teacher evaluation was published on on the link above to see it.

Rev. Jesse Jackson radio show

May 27, 2017: Appeared as a guest on the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s radio show, Keep Hope Alive Radio with Jesse Jackson, to discuss Betsy DeVos’ role in the attacks on public education, the privatization of the public schools, vouchers, and charter schools. (

VICE News interview

May 15, 2017: Interviewed by a reporter from VICE News for my perspectives on the influence of the “gig economy” in K-12 and higher education in the United States.

My New Year’s Eve resolutions for public education, on Diane Ravitch's Blog

My piece on my hopes for education policy in the New Year was published on Diane Ravitch's blog.



How Betsy and Dick DeVos Devoured the Schools of Michigan, on Diane Ravitch's Blog

My article on the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education was published on Diane Ravitch's blog.


This article was also shared by the Daily Kos on their website.


From Michigan, This is the Real Betsy DeVos, on Diane Ravitch's Blog

My piece on the appointment of Michigan's Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education was shared on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Hey, Matt Lauer, You Have Been Hoaxed!, on Diane Ravitch's Blog

Honored to have my piece on Matt Lauer's deceptive "scholarship donations" to Detroit's kids on Diane Ravitch's blog, here. And here is the post on my blog.

Team Eclectablog

I am pleased to announce that I have been invited to join the editorial team at Eclectablog! I will be focusing on education policy, particularly as it relates to public education and the corrosive impact of for-profit charter schools on our public school system, and am thrilled to contribute to my favorite political website in Michigan.


Click here for a brief interview with Chris Savage, the founder of Eclectablog.

Charter school funding fiascos: Misplaced priorities and warped values, on Eclectablog

My essay on charter schools has been reposted on Eclectablog, here.

GUEST POST – Charter Schools: The New Private Prisons?, on Eclectablog

I'm honored to have my essay on charter schools reposted on the excellent Eclectablog, here.

How Private Prisons are Like Charter Schools, on Diane Ravitch's Blog

My post on the similarities between private prisons and charter schools was reposted on Diane Ravitch's blog here. The original blog post can be found here.

What's Choice Got To Do With It?, on Eclectablog

My essay on the fallacies of school choice policy was published on "Eclectablog," a Michigan political blog. 

Closing Schools Makes No Sense...For Children, on LA Progressive

I'm very excited to have my first publication in the LA Progressive! I’ve admired this publication for a long time, and am thrilled to have one of my articles appear on their website.

And A Music Teacher Shall Lead Them, on Diane Ravitch's Blog

My post on recent changes to teacher evaluation in Michigan, and their negative impact on music teachers, was reposted on Diane Ravitch's blog here.


A big thank you to Mandy Mikita Scott for her inspiration and contributions to this post!

Radio Interview: Death Knell for Ed Reform?

Click here to listen to my radio interview with fellow education activist Denisha Jones on the Education Town Hall: BUS (Badass Teachers Association, United Opt Out, Save our Schools):

Death Knell for “Ed Reform”?

Mitchell Robinson, of Michigan State University, and Denisha Jones, of Howard University — both active in BadAss Teachers Association — discuss the disappointment of teachers and teacher educators, nationwide, as unions and others jump on the “teachers are the problem” bandwagon of #TeachStrong.

Jones explains how the new effort fails to include many experienced schools of education, possibly in recognition of the fact that previous attempts to privatize and control schools has been thwarted by teachers and teacher educators.

Robinson also argues, however, that recent changes of tack for ed reformers, including Gates Foundation teacher prep funding, suggest reformers’ frustration because “they have not done one thing” and consequent flailing. Signaling, perhaps, a death knell for combative and unsuccessful strategies. 

Hey, GLEP: Got Integrity?, on Eclectablog

I'm thrilled to share my recent guest post on one of my very favorite political websites, Eclectablog! Chris Savage does a great job of keeping Michigan's citizens informed about what's happening in the state's political scene, and it's an honor to have my essay shared on this venue.

Who's Who in the Education Wars, on Diane Ravitch...

My essay on the main characters in what is referred to as "the education wars" was reposted by Diane Ravitch on her blog. To read the essay, click here...

My blog has been included on the Teach 100 list of "top education blogs."

"Can it Get More Absurd?", on The Conversation

An article of mine on music teacher evaluation, Can it get more absurd? Now music teachers are being tested based on math and reading scores, was published on The Conversation—a new media platform designed to "Inform public debate with knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence.”

My goal with this effort is to share my scholarship with a wider audience, and try to influence the narrative around the issues that are important to the profession. This can be difficult with traditional academic venues, like research journals, that have a limited circulation, target only other music educators, and often require a paid subscription in order to access. I believe that we have an obligation as “public academics” to spread our scholarship in these ways.

The Conversation is an open access platform with online editions in the US, Australia, Africa, France and the UK, and has a monthly audience of 2.6 million users, and a reach of 23 million.

"Imagine," On The Washington Post

My blog post, "Imagine," was picked up by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post on October 13, 2015. To read the essay, click here:  

Teach for America interview, on the Rick Smith Radio Show

Click on the link below to hear my interview on the problems with Teach for America on the Rick Smith Radio Show.



Editorial in Lansing State Journal

Robinson: Young creatives not good for art education

—Mitchell Robinson is associate professor and chair of the music education area in the College of Music at Michigan State University. 6:04 a.m. EDT September 27, 2015

As a former public school music teacher, music teacher educator, arts education advocate and chair of the music education area at Michigan State University, I am writing to express my profound disappointment with the recent announcement from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing of the “Young Creatives Project,” an initiative designed to “support funding of teaching artists in Lansing School District elementary classrooms”. To be clear, “teaching artists” are not certified arts teachers, and are not licensed to provide instruction in schools.

I was deeply involved with the Arts Council’s early efforts to advocate for restoration of the nearly 20 music, art and physical education teaching positions eliminated by the district two years ago, and a central component of our community arts task force’s approach at the time was the recognition that it was the responsibility of the district to provide certified, qualified arts and physical education teachers to deliver instruction to Lansing’s children.

When the cuts were first announced, the Arts Council served as the “convener” of the Lansing area’s community arts providers and agencies, arts educators and other community organizations, and organized the local arts community in a forceful and principled response to the District’s actions. We understood that it was beyond the scope and mission of these organizations to provide sequential, curricular arts education to the children of Lansing, and that agreeing to consider this move would effectively relieve the District of its responsibility to provide instruction.

While the Arts Council’s new “Young Creatives Program” promises to partner with the LSD to provide “teaching artists” in the schools, this initiative will actually result in a greatly diminished arts education experience for Lansing’s children, and all but guarantee that the District will never reinstate art, music or physical education for the city’s youngest children. So while children in Holt, Grand Ledge and Waverly have faced similar budgetary challenges, but still offer and support strong, vibrant art, music and physical education offerings, their peers in Lansing will be deprived of these experiences. And the achievement gap between Lansing and other school systems will continue to grow wider.

If the Arts Council truly wants to do what is best for Lansing’s children, they will reconsider this shameless attempt to profit off of the LSD’s decision to eliminate elementary arts education in the city, and work with the District’s leadership to restore these programs to the schools. Lansing’s children deserve the same quality of education as their peers in other area schools, which includes music, art and physical education instruction delivered by certified, qualified teachers.

— Mitchell Robinson is associate professor and chair of the music education area in the College of Music at Michigan State University.

Blog Post on How the Reform Agenda of Churn and Chaos has Undermined Detroit's Schools, on Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch recently reposted a blog post of mine on how the reform strategy of "creative destruction" has wreaked havoc in the public schools of many major American cities, including New Orleans and Detroit.

However, one of the more subtle, yet damaging, weapons in the reformers' playbook is simultaneously less visible to the uninformed eye and more insidious in its ability to accomplish the reformers' ultimate goal: the destabilization of public education by an intentional, purposeful strategy of near-constant turnover and turmoil in the leadership and teaching force in the schools.

The business world has a name for this practice: creative destruction. It's a term coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter, and "refers to the incessant product and process innovation mechanism by which new production units replace outdated ones." Also referred to as "churn," this business-centered approach to school reform considers students and teachers as "raw materials," and schools as "factories." The goal is maximizing profits, and significant "collateral damage" (i.e., school closings, teacher terminations, student expulsions) is not only acceptable, but expected, in the single-minded pursuit of the reformers' goals.

"Creative destruction" comes in numerous forms in public education, from the year-to-year involuntary reassignment of teachers from one grade level to another, to the practice of having elementary teachers with "all subjects" certifications teach subjects (i.e., music, art, PE) they are unqualified to teach, to moving principals back and forth between schools as though they are pawns in a game of administrative Pong.

For more, go to "If You Can't Beat 'Em, Destabilize 'Em!"

Blog Post on "Achievement School District" Scams, on Diane Ravitch...

I'm excited to share that my recent blog post on Achievement School Districts has been picked up by Diane Ravitch, perhaps our most influential education blogger and historian.


Click below to read the article: 

There is the Recovery School District in New Orleans; the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan; the Achievement School District in Tennessee; and more on the way in other states.


The main thing you need to know about these experimental districts is that they promise rapid improvement in the state’s lowest performing schools, and all of them have failed.

On the High Wire

I'm happy to share that my chapter, “A Tale of Two Institutions or... Myths and Musings on Work/Life Balance,” appears in the new book, “On the High Wire: Education Professors Walk Between Work and Parenting” from Information Age Publishing.

The purpose of the work/life balance series is to highlight particular challenges that higher education faculty face as they participate in the demands of the academy and try to prevent those demands from invading their personal lives. On The High Wire looks at a specific subset of university faculty, education faculty with school-aged children, and the specific professional/personal balance these faculty need to find. The title On the High Wire suggests the precarious nature of the “walk” for education faculty who are parents of school-aged children. We know that our identities are central to how we experience the world and how the world reacts to us. This reality is clearly visible in this book. These multiple identities and roles come into conflict at multiple points and in different ways. This book explores these identities and roles through autoethnographic accounts written by varied education faculty in order to make these tensions visible for the field to address.

Focus on STEM overshadows importance of music education | Michigan Radio

When we talk about building an education system that prepares children for the creative thinking and collaboration skills necessary in today’s -- and tomorrow’s --  job market, there’s an amazing resource here in Michigan that, like most places, gets almost criminally overlooked: music educators.

My job allows me to travel quite a bit, so I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the finest music programs and teachers across the country, and I believe that Michigan has some of the best school music programs in the nation. There are a few reasons why:

• The quality of music teachers here is outstanding. They are talented, smart and well-informed.

• Michigan's teachers also tend to be well-connected to their professional organizations and seek out professional development. Research tells us that teachers who attend professional development events tend to remain active members of the profession, while those who don’t often wind up leaving the classroom.

• Music programs in Michigan are grounded in solid pedagogical foundations, with comprehensive, sequential general music programs in the elementary schools; and strong band, orchestra and chorus programs at the secondary level.

While we are fortunate to be in a state with excellent music programs, sadly this is not the case in every school. Recently, the Lansing School District made the decision to lay-off nearly all of its certified teachers in elementary music, art and physical education. This creates an enormous equity issue for children and families in this region — those who live in Lansing’s suburbs enjoy rich, meaningful offerings in the arts, while their peers in the city have little-to-no access to these same opportunities. This must change.

So, too, must the way we evaluate music teachers. If studies already show that measuring teacher effectiveness through test score improvements is simplistic and naïve, it is then especially troubling for music teachers that part of their annual effectiveness rating is often based on test scores in subjects that they don’t teach, like math or reading, and on test scores for children that are not even in their classes. That doesn’t seem right or fair.

We often hear the saying, “We test what we value.” I would respectfully suggest that exactly the opposite is true. In fact, the things that we value and care about the most are those things that are precisely the most resistant to measurement. For many students, music is one of those things they care about the most; it brings meaning to their lives. It’s one of the most powerful ways they have to make sense of their world.

I would also like to challenge the notion that the main purpose of schools is to produce the nation’s workforce. This stance represents a re-conceptualization of the true purpose of education, from one that is about the development of meaningful relationships between teachers and learners, and among learners, to one that is simply a transfer of information from teacher to learner -- a sort of educational “banking transaction”, if you will.

To be clear, I am not against the development of students who are capable of moving on to college or the workforce, but that is not the purpose of education and never has been. That’s a byproduct of schooling, not a purpose. Just as the reason for teaching music is not to help children get good ratings at competitions, but rather to help them learn the musical skills and knowledge in order to become lifelong music makers and supporters of the arts.

So what’s the Next Idea?

I remain very optimistic about the future for music educators in Michigan because never before has what we have to offer been more desperately needed -- by our students, our schools and our society. I know that music, when taught well, provides the “antidote” to today’s “teach-to-the-test,” assessment-driven culture because music study offers the very things that employers say they are looking for in the workforce, and for what school leaders emphasize in mission and vision statements: critical thinking, teamwork, problem-solving skills, and creativity. Or, in the words of Dr. Elliott Eisner, renowned arts educator: “Our schools, teachers, and students might be a lot better off if schools embraced the idea that education means learning what to do when you don’t know what to do.”

As the father of two school-age boys, I see firsthand the impact of a fine school music program on my children. They understand that there is often more than one “right” way to answer a question, especially when the question is a difficult one. They are comfortable with what psychologists call “divergent” thinking, which is the ability to see multiple solutions to a problem. Children who study music know how to work together collaboratively in groups, to value the efforts of all team members, and that every person has the ability to make a worthwhile contribution to the group’s work.

In order to help move Michigan toward a future in which all students have access to a strong and vibrant music education, there are two policy initiatives that the Partnership for Music Education Policy Development, a Michigan think-tank dedicated to promoting music education, says will help:

1.      To amend the School Code to require elementary schools to provide a comprehensive, sequential music education, delivered by a certified, qualified music teacher, for every student in grades kindergarten to five. Currently, Michigan is one of only a handful of states that does not mandate music instruction for elementary school students.

2.      To modify the current teacher evaluation system for music teachers to insure a more fair and more equitable process is followed.

It’s time that music teachers stop apologizing for their role in helping our students to become more comfortable with their feelings and their emotions. This is not a weakness in what we do, it’s a great strength. By ensuring that access to a full and complete education is guaranteed for all of Michigan’s children, we move closer to realizing the great power and promise of music in our schools, because, when taught well, music can provide the means for our students to figure out what to do when they don’t know what to do. And that should be what we want for all of our children. 

Share Your Ideas:

  •  How has studying music affected your life? 
  • In your view, what is the purpose of education and where does music fit in? 

Join the conversation in the comments section below, on Twitter or Facebook, or let us know your Next Idea here

Mitchell Robinson is an associate professor of music education and chair of the music education area at Michigan State University.

Click on this link to hear an interview with Cynthia Canty of Michigan Radio about the essay...

The Inchworm and the Nightingale: On the (Mis)use of Data in Music Teacher Evaluation

Click here to read this article that appeared in Arts Education Policy Review.

When We Want to Improve Something...

The following post appeared on the Badass Teachers Association blog ( on December 4, 2014

When we want to improve something--a product, a process, a project--in the business world, we devote more time, money and resources into research and development; we recruit talented people and pay them a competitive wage; we make sure we surround those persons with excellent facilities, equipment, materials, working conditions, benefits, and retirement packages; we treat those employees with dignity, respect and compassion.

When we want to improve something--teacher quality, student learning--in public education, we establish invalid and unreliable accountability measures that have been proven not to work; we eliminate teacher tenure, teacher unions, and minimum salary requirements; we make it easier for unqualified people to enter the profession, taking away jobs from more experienced (read = more expensive) teachers; we deregulate charter schools as we impose unreasonable demands and expectations on our public schools, teachers and students.

And then we blame teachers and students for the problems created by this mismanagement, and label them as "whiners" and "complainers" when they have the nerve to voice their concerns about the damage being done to public education.

Washington Post article on TFA

2014 Music Education Policy Summit

Over 50 music teachers, music teacher educators and music education advocates attended and participated in the Music Education Policy Summit at Michigan State University on June 14, 2014. It was inspiring to see and hear from so many passionate, dedicated individuals about their challenges, successes and hopes for the future of our profession. In the words of one panelist, "When people ask me how things are going in Michigan, I always say that it's amazing how much we get done with such bad music education policy in our state." So very true.

Building on this momentum we are excited to pursue the next steps in our agenda:

1. To propose and implement a K-5 music requirement for Michigan's public schools. We are currently one of 5 states to not have an elementary music mandate. This is unacceptable, and our kids and schools deserve better.

2. To strengthen teacher certification requirements that currently allow schools to replace certified music teachers (MI certificate JQ) with those who hold a K-8 "all subjects" certificate. This is unacceptable, and our kids and schools deserve better.

To learn more about the Partnership for Music Education Policy Development, and to support our efforts to influence music education policy in Michigan and nationally, please go to

Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research in American Music Education

Qualitative research has become increasingly popular in music education over the last decade, yet there is no source that explains the terms, approaches and issues associated with this approach. In The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research in American Music Education, editor Colleen Conway and the contributing music educators provide that clarification, as well as models of qualitative studies within various music education disciplines. The handbook outlines the history of qualitative research in American music education and explores the contemporary use of qualitative approaches in examining issues related to music teaching and learning. It includes 32 chapters that address a range of topics, from ways of approaching qualitative research and ways of collecting and analyzing data, to the various music teaching and learning contexts that have been studied using qualitative approaches. 


My two chapters are: 


6 ‐ Changing the Conversation: Considering Quality in Music Education Qualitative Research.


31 ‐ The Politics of Publication: Voices, Venues and Ethics.


To browse an online version of the Handbook, please go to:

Click below to hear my interview with Cynthia Canty on Michigan Radio's State Side on Feb. 19.

As Michigan moves into new, uncharted waters in terms of testing and evaluating those who hope to become teachers, there are many views on whether this testing and evaluation is fair, helpful, and an accurate measurement of how students, teachers, and schools are doing.

Mitchell Robinson is an associate professor and chair of music education at Michigan State University. A former teacher, his research is now focused on education policy and the mentoring of new music teachers. 

He believes test scores like the beefed-up version of Michigan's teacher certification test aren't telling us anything substantial about students or learning.

Click below to read my guest column on "Okemos Parents for Schools", a response to Thomas Friedman's piece, "Obama's Homework Assignment":

WKAR Current State Radio Interview: Local arts organizations seek return of certified teachers in Lansing schools

Last spring, in response to a budget deficit, the Lansing Public School District laid off 87 teachers who were certified to teach art, music and physical education in its elementary schools.

Now more than a month into the school year, we thought it would be a good time to check-in on how this is playing out and find out what options are on the table to educate Lansing students in these crucial subjects.

In the coming weeks here on Current State, we plan to have a series of conversations with all of the stakeholders – parents, teachers, and district officials. Today, we start off with community arts providers.

Click here to listen to the interview:

Barb Whitney is a program manager and interim director of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. And Mitchell Robinson is an associate professor and chair of the Music Education department in Michigan State University’s College of  Music.

Music Education Advocacy

Experts at MSU take action and provide perspective

School districts across the nation are faced with challenging economic times. When tough decisions need to be made, arts funding is one of the first things some districts put under the microscope. Music Education at MSU looks at this through a different lens and plays a strong advocacy role for the arts in its community, across the state and nation.

In March of 2013, the Lansing School District announced it would cut more than 80 elementary art, music, and physical education teacher positions beginning in the fall of 2013. Faced with some tough budgetary issues and new State of Michigan Right-to-Work legislation, the school board and teachers union made the decision to eliminate teacher positions and supplement their programing by placing additional demands on existing teachers and seeking non-binding external subject matter resources and personnel.

Dr. Mitch Robinson, associate professor and chair of music education, and Rhonda Buckley, associate dean for outreach and engagement and executive director of the MSU Community Music School, took prompt action. They reached out to local and national arts organizations, teachers, parents, the MSU College of Education, and various associations to advocate for the centrality and importance of arts education in the general curriculum. New dialogues have evolved and relationships have developed as the College of Music continues to provide leadership on this issue.

Click here to read more on the College of Music’s perspective on this issue and listen to a radio interview with Mitch Robinson.


2013 Michigan Music Conference Features MSU Presenters, Clinicians and Conductors

The 2013 Michigan Music Conference will feature an impressive roster of presenters with MSU affiliations--just click to see a full size version of the poster!


We should all be proud of our friends and colleagues who will be sharing their knowledge and expertise with their colleagues in our schools at this event. See below for a listing of these sessions. 


I'd also like to point out three events for your special attention:


• Dr. Cindy Taggart will be presenting an all day (8:00am-4:00pm) pre-conference workshop, titled "Illuminating the Mystery: Music Learning Theory in Action. Cindy will be joined by two Spartan alums, Jennifer Bailey and Heather Shouldice, who will be co-presenters. This promises to be a terrific workshop!


• Dr. Kevin Sedatole, MSU's Director of Bands, will be conducting the Michigan All-State High School Band on Saturday. It will be great to have Dr. Sedatole share his musicianship and artistry with our state's young musicians. Congratulations Kevin!


• Dr. John Kratus will be receiving the MMEA "Award of Merit" for his contributions to the state's music education community, especially for his founding of the annual MMEA Honors Composition Concert, which will be held on Saturday, January 19. Congratulations to John for this well deserved honor!


Also, if you are planning to attend the MMC, please remember to join us for the MSU Reception on Friday. The reception will be held from 5:00-6:30pm in the Governors Room, and is a great way to catch up with old friends and touch base with the faculty and current students. We hope to see you there!



Congratulations to all of our presenters and clinicians, and thank you for sharing your expertise and ideas with your colleagues!

It's Out!

Click on the picture to the left to go to the Teachers College Press web page on our new book, What Every Principal Needs to Know to Create Equitable and Excellent Schools, edited by George Theoharis (Syracuse University) and Jeff Brooks (Iowa State University). My chapter is titled, "Music Teaching and Learning in a Time of Reform."


About the book. . . 


School leaders who succeed at creating a high-achieving learning community must also be committed to creating an equitable environment for all students. In this new book, key scholars across the content areas show how to put into practice a commitment to equity and excellence across the Pre-K–12 spectrum. Readers learn directly from experts in each of the content domains (literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, music, early childhood, special education, English language learners, world languages, and physical education) how a commitment to social justice and equity can be grounded in core subject areas, why each has a place in the school, and what they need to know and do in each subject area. This book is a critical instructional leadership resource for new and veteran principals who want to see all students succeed. 


“This book is a noble work of art; it is thoughtful, well written, and passionate. The authors and editors provide the pathway for all of us to contribute to social justice. It is a must-read!” 

—Sarah Jerome, superintendent, Arlington Heights, Illinois, and past president of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) 


“By forging the linkage between equity and leader`s subject knowledge, Theoharis and Brooks provide a much needed and important extension in our understanding of instructional leadership.” 

—Joseph F. Murphy, Vanderbilt University 


“At last a book on what principals need to know that doesn’t sacrifice the idea of an education to develop the entire human being instead of workers who can compete with China.” 

—Fenwick W. English, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


“Bridges the gap between the intellectual considerations of academia and the everyday aspects of leadership practice. It is a must-read for principals, superintendents, curriculum specialists, and those who prepare them.” 

—Autumn Cyprès, The University of Tennessee 


“Finally, a thoughtful, well-crafted book that guides school leaders on promoting both high-quality teaching and learning and equity principles to improve student learning across content areas and needs.” 

—Terry Orr, Bank Street College of Education 


“WOW! Social justice leadership with explicit core content areas addressed all in one book. All principals hoping to improve student achievement and equity should consider this book when thinking about their leadership.” 

—Deborah Hoffman, principal, Lincoln Elementary School, Madison, WI 


“As a school principal in high-need schools for the past ten years, I truly recommend this book to anyone interested in improving the state of learning and increasing achievement scores.” 

—Rob DiFlorio, principal, Henninger High School, Syracuse, NY 


Contributors: Antonio J. Castro • Julie Causton-Theoharis • Virginia Collier • Katherine Delaney • Catherine Ennis • Virginia Goatley • Beth Graue • Rochelle Gutiérrez • Kathleen A. Hinchman • Anne Karabon • Christi Kasa • Dave McAlpine • Mitchell Robinson • Victor Sampson • Sherry A. Southerland • Wayne Thomas 


240 pages Paperback, $29.95 | 978-0-8077-5353-8 Hardcover, $76 | 978-0-8077-5354-5 


Table of Contents 


1. Literacy—Leading Literacy Programs That Foster Excellence in All Students 

2. Mathematics—Beyond the Achievement Gap: What It Takes to Become an Effective Leader in Mathematics for Marginalized Youth 

3. Science—Creating Effective School Leaders for 21st-Century Science 

4. Social Studies—Teaching Social Studies for Democratic Equity and Excellence 

5. Music—Music Teaching and Learning in a Time of Reform 

6. Early Childhood—Learning to Love Your Noisy Neighbor: A Principal’s Guide to the Education of Young Children 

7. Special Education—Leadership for Inclusive Education: What Every Principal Needs to Know 

8. English Language Learners—What Really Works for English Language Learners: Research-Based Practices for Principals 

9. World Languages—Understanding Foreign Language Instruction in Your School 

10. Physical Education—Innovative Practices and Programs in Physical Education


George Theoharis is an Associate Dean in the School of Education at Syracuse University and an Associate Professor in Educational Leadership and Inclusive Elementary Education. He is the author of The School Leaders Our Children Deserve. 

Jeffrey S. Brooks is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Educational Administration at Iowa State University. He is the author of Black School, White School: Racism and Educational (Mis)leadership. 


To order, call 800-575-6566 or visit 

Follow us @TCPress 

For special bulk sales, please contact TC Press at: (212) 678-3919 

For exam/desk copy requests go to: 


Teachers College 

Columbia University