Bakersfield's two largest elementary school districts have received national honors for their outstanding commitment to music education.

The Bakersfield City School District and the Panama-Buena Vista School District have each been named among the Best Communities for Music Education for 2019 from the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, commonly known as NAMM.

Now in its 20th year, the Best Communities designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

The Foundation recognized 623 school districts in 41 states.

Since the passage by Congress in 2015 of the Every Student Succeeds Act and a stated emphasis on a well-rounded education, many schools districts have re-committed to music and arts education programs, the NAMM Foundation said in a press release announcing the honorees.

Evidence continues to accelerate around the benefits of music education for students, schools and communities, NAMM said. In 2018, Music Matters, the condensed guide from the Arts Education Partnership and co-sponsored by the Country Music Foundation and The NAMM Foundation, found that music students do better in English, math and science than their peers without music — and more music and art equals fewer dropouts and a reduced number of suspensions.

"Even with compounding evidence of the benefits and importance of music education, many music education programs are not adequately funded and struggling for adequate resources for their proper place in the curriculum," Mary Luehrsen of The NAMM Foundation said in the release.

The honored districts show "what can be done when teachers, school and community leaders, and parents all agree that music is essential and not optional as a learning force that must be available to all students," Luehrsen said. "We dream of the day when all districts aspire to earn this distinction.”

Districts that have been recognized by the NAMM Foundation are often held up as models for other educators looking to boost their own music education programs.

“I am very proud of the district's music teachers for the fabulous work they do," Michael Stone, coordinator for the Visual and Performing Arts Department at BCSD, said in a statement. "This competitive awards program considers school districts all over the country, and scores them based upon quality of instruction by teachers, access to music education classes, resources provided by the district and community, community support, and administrative support. This award is truly one for the entire BCSD community."

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, districts must answer detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program, and community music-making programs.

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