Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Findings

music-education-notes

(Photo: OtnaYdur/Shutterstock)

High School Music Classes Remain Popular, but Hispanics Lag Behind

• June 06, 2014 • 4:00 AM

(Photo: OtnaYdur/Shutterstock)

New research finds that, contrary to fears, the No Child Left Behind act had little impact on enrollment in music courses.

As debate heats up over the new Common Core standards for American schools, a timely new study looks back at the impact of the last attempt to improve the education system: No Child Left Behind.

When that act was implemented in 2002, some scholars feared its emphasis on test scores—particularly in the areas of math and reading—would narrow students’ focus and discourage enrollment in elective classes, especially music. After all, who has time for piano lessons when there is another math quiz in the morning?

Writing in the Journal of Research in Music education, University of Maryland researcher Kenneth Elpus reports those fears turned out to be overstated. “NCLB may have had no discernible effect on overall enrollment rates in music,” he writes.

“It should be heartening for most music teachers to learn that a core group of just over one-third of all U.S. high schools students, for nearly 30 years, has consistently chosen to enroll in a music class.”

However, his analysis—which tracked 9th- through 12th-grade enrollment in music classes from 1982 to 2009—concludes that the law “likely exacerbated the underrepresentation of Hispanic students in all types of music courses.”

Specifically, Elpus found the percentage of students enrolling in at least one high school music class went down among three groups: Hispanics, students with Individualized Education Plans, and English Language Learner students (who enter school knowing virtually no English).

“The precise mechanism through which these students were excluded from music courses remains an open question,” he writes. “It is possible that school administrators, responding to consequential accountability pressures, systematically denied access to music courses for these subgroups in favor of courses more closely aligned with the high-stakes test.”

While Elpus finds that troubling, he adds that “it should be heartening for most music teachers to learn that a core group of just over one-third of all U.S. high schools students, for nearly 30 years, has consistently chosen to enroll in a music class.”

What’s more, he notes, “for students who do elect music, the average number of courses taken was increasing across this sample, with 9.4 percent of the class of 2009 persisting through at least four years’ worth of music courses, compared to just 5.4 percent of the class of 1982.”

How the new Common Core standards impact those figures remains to be seen. But for those of us convinced that the creativity and teamwork kids learn in music class is a vital part of their education, it’s good to know these courses continue to attract students in big numbers.

Tom Jacobs
Staff writer Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ventura County Star.

More From Tom Jacobs

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 30 • 2:00 PM

How Dark Money Got a Mining Company Everything It Wanted

An accidentally released court filing reveals how one company secretly gave money to a non-profit that helped get favorable mining legislation passed.


October 30 • 12:00 PM

The Halloween Industrial Complex

The scariest thing about Halloween might be just how seriously we take it. For this week’s holiday, Americans of all ages will spend more than $5 billion on disposable costumes and bite-size candy.


October 30 • 10:00 AM

Sky’s the Limit: The Case for Selling Air Rights

Lower taxes and debt, increased revenue for the city, and a much better use of space in already dense environments: Selling air rights and encouraging upward growth seem like no-brainers, but NIMBY resistance and philosophical barriers remain.


October 30 • 9:00 AM

Cycles of Fear and Bias in the Criminal Justice System

Exploring the psychological roots of racial disparity in U.S. prisons.


October 30 • 8:00 AM

How Do You Make a Living, Email Newsletter Writer?

Noah Davis talks to Wait But Why writer Tim Urban about the newsletter concept, the research process, and escaping “money-flushing toilet” status.



October 30 • 6:00 AM

Dreamers of the Carbon-Free Dream

Can California go full-renewable?


October 30 • 5:08 AM

We’re Not So Great at Rejecting Each Other

And it’s probably something we should work on.


October 30 • 4:00 AM

He’s Definitely a Liberal—Just Check Out His Brain Scan

New research finds political ideology can be easily determined by examining how one’s brain reacts to disgusting images.


October 29 • 4:00 PM

Should We Prosecute Climate Change Protesters Who Break the Law?

A conversation with Bristol County, Massachusetts, District Attorney Sam Sutter, who dropped steep charges against two climate change protesters.


October 29 • 2:23 PM

Innovation Geography: The Beginning of the End for Silicon Valley

Will a lack of affordable housing hinder the growth of creative start-ups?


October 29 • 2:00 PM

Trapped in the Tobacco Debt Trap

A refinance of Niagara County, New York’s tobacco bonds was good news—but for investors, not taxpayers.


October 29 • 12:00 PM

Purity and Self-Mutilation in Thailand

During the nine-day Phuket Vegetarian Festival, a group of chosen ones known as the mah song torture themselves in order to redirect bad luck and misfortune away from their communities and ensure a year of prosperity.


October 29 • 10:00 AM

Can Proposition 47 Solve California’s Problem With Mass Incarceration?

Reducing penalties for low-level felonies could be the next step in rolling back draconian sentencing laws and addressing the criminal justice system’s long legacy of racism.


October 29 • 9:00 AM

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Brain

Neuroscientists find less—but potentially stronger—white matter in the brains of patients with CFS.


October 29 • 8:00 AM

America’s Bathrooms Are a Total Failure

No matter which American bathroom is crowned in this year’s America’s Best Restroom contest, it will still have a host of terrible flaws.



October 29 • 6:00 AM

Tell Us What You Really Think

In politics, are we always just looking out for No. 1?


October 29 • 4:00 AM

Racial Resentment Drives Tea Party Membership

New research finds a strong link between tea party membership and anti-black feelings.


October 28 • 4:00 PM

The New Health App on Apple’s iOS 8 Is Literally Dangerous

Design isn’t neutral. Design is a picture of inequality, of systems of power, and domination both subtle and not. Apple should know that.


October 28 • 2:00 PM

And You Thought Your Credit Card Debt Was Bad

In Niagara County, New York, leaders took on 40-year debt to pay for short-term stuff, a case study in the perverse incentives tobacco bonds create.



October 28 • 10:00 AM

How Valuable Is It to Cure a Disease?

It depends on the disease—for some, breast cancer and AIDS for example, non-curative therapy that can extend life a little or a lot is considered invaluable. For hepatitis C, it seems that society and the insurance industry have decided that curative therapy simply costs too much.


October 28 • 8:00 AM

Can We Read Our Way Out of Sadness?

How books can help save lives.



Follow us


We’re Not So Great at Rejecting Each Other

And it's probably something we should work on.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Brain

Neuroscientists find less—but potentially stronger—white matter in the brains of patients with CFS.

Incumbents, Pray for Rain

Come next Tuesday, rain could push voters toward safer, more predictable candidates.

Could Economics Benefit From Computer Science Thinking?

Computational complexity could offer new insight into old ideas in biology and, yes, even the dismal science.

Politicians Really Aren’t Better Decision Makers

Politicians took part in a classic choice experiment but failed to do better than the rest of us.

The Big One

One town, Champlain, New York, was the source of nearly half the scams targeting small businesses in the United States last year. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.