One of the perks of being married to another music educator is that we share professional journals with each other. Sometimes I even snag the latest issue of MENC’s official magazine for music educators – Teaching Music – before he even gets home! 😉
The latest issue of Teaching Music (June, 2008, Vol. 15, No. 6) arrived today, and as I was skimming through the pages, I ran across a very interesting article by Catherine Applefeld Olson, entitled “Music Testing Success Crosses Ethnic Lines” (p 20). It details the results of a “first-of-its-kind standardized test in Florida which reveals that among music, reading, writing, and math, music is the only subject in which students have an equal chance to succeed regardless of ethnicity.”
In May, 2007, almost 9,500 fourth graders in Florida took the Florida Music Assessment (FMA). The student population came from 42 of the state’s 67 counties. The ethnic distribution of the students was exactly compatible to those who took the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The disparity on the FCAT between highest and lowest scores ranged from 29 to 34. On the FMA? The point spread was 20 points, almost one third less among ethnicities than the FCAT.
Other findings included “a significant positive relationship between school performance on the FMA and the 2007 FCAT reading, writing, and math scores. The better a school performed on the FMA, the better it performed on the FCAT tests, particularly with regard to math.”
Correlations with writing and reading were in the high 90 percentiles, not an unusual finding. However, in math, it was 99.997 percent! “While we expected a correlation, we had no idea the correlations would be that high,” says James Perry, executive director of the FMEA (Florida Music Educators Association).
Timothy Brophy, associate professor of music education at the University of Florida’s School of music and chairman of the project, is quoted as saying, “Schools with higher music scores tend to have higher reading, math, and writing scores. We shouldn’t ignore the significant implications of these results.”
Music and the arts, both fine and dramatic, have long been favorite targets of number crunchers amongst the public school systems nationwide. When standardized test results indicate children are struggling, one of the first cries heard are “More academics! Back to basics!”
But are our children instead paying the price for this cost-cutting, academic-intensive mindset?
Where does your child’s school stand in regards to music instruction? Does your child’s school even offer music?