Orcutt Union School District Uses Schedule Rotation to Support Music Education

The Challenge: How to deploy limited resources to serve high needs students and establish a sustainable elementary music program that serves every student

The Strategy: Create a schedule rotation of P.E., music and intervention to achieve smaller class size and arts instruction for all students 

The Story: The Orcutt Union School District, located in Santa Barbara county, includes five elementary schools, two middle schools, one K-8 school and two K-8 and one high school charter schools. Faced with the challenge of a tight budget and looking for a way to address the needs of a student population with a high number of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the district needed to use their existing funds in a creative way. 

Leadership at The Orcutt Union School District came up with a strategy to tie together music instruction and intervention instruction in their district Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The plan established new music classes taught by credentialed music teachers to decrease class size for an intensive intervention section. 

All of the elementary schools in the district instituted a new rotation: 1/3 of students in a classroom went to P.E., 1/3 attended music instruction, and 1/3 remained with their teacher for intervention. As the district put together the new schedule, they worked to ensure that students receiving intervention also had access to music classes. As a result, every elementary student received 30 minutes of music instruction every week! 

In the beginning, there were challenges that had to be addressed before the schedule change could be implemented. First, teachers and principals had to be convinced that the rotation schedule, and the inclusion of music education, would be beneficial to their students. Secondly, finding credentialed music teachers proved to a challenge for the district and resources had to be allocated to the recruitment process. The district was able to overcome these challenges, and work within their limited budget, in order to establish a resilient music education program.

Dr. Deborah Blow, Superintendent of Orcutt Union School District, explained that there are numerous benefits to the elementary music program and the rotation system:

  1. Every elementary student receives 30 minutes of music instruction each week from a credentialed music teacher 
  2. The four music teachers are all credentialed, full-time teachers who are members of the school community and report progress to the classroom teachers 
  3. There is a level of security in these full-time music teacher positions because they are funded through the LCAP, not through grant money which can run out
  4. Parents throughout the district are thrilled that their children are receiving music instruction 
  5. The small class size created by the rotation allows students to regularly receive individualized attention from their teachers
  6. The district has found that in the years following the establishment of the elementary music program, the enrollment in band programs at the middle school has doubled 
  7. Since the start of the music program, the Orcutt Children’s Arts Foundation has supported the schools by funding the purchase of musical instruments. In addition, funding from the Orcutt Children’s Arts Foundation supported teacher professional development led by the Santa Barbara Art Institute which provided P.E. and music teachers with training to implement an integrated dance unit for elementary students 

The Orcutt Union School District is exemplary in their creative use of existing resources to benefit students through music education and intervention! 

The exciting work happening in the Orcutt Union School District is celebrated by the Orcutt Arts Now Community. The Orcutt Arts Now Community, launched on October 13, 2017, brings together parents, teachers, administrators and community members to support existing arts education programs and to find new ways to expand student access to the arts. Learn more about the Arts Now Campaign here.