Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Student Ethnicity and High School Music Course Enrollment: Reading and Math Differences

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Student Ethnicity and High School Music Course Enrollment: Reading and Math Differences

Article excerpt

Scholarly literature contains many references to the potential benefits of music participation on academic achievement, cognition, and other school-related factors including student engagement, attendance, and positive mood. However, few studies exist in which relationships between students' race and ethnicity and music course participation have been examined. Since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in the United States, educational researchers have suggested that the policy has led to narrowed curriculum and prompted teachers to teach only what is tested (Darling-Hammond, 2007). As a result, arts curriculum has been reduced in many states, reducing the potential for students to receive a well-rounded education (Gullatt, 2007; Ravitch, 2010). Although research has been conducted demonstrating how music might enhance academic achievement, effects of the NCLB Act have limited the curricular choices that parents and students must make as they plan for high school graduation (Gay, 2007; Hursh, 2005, 2007). With many elective choices available, as well as increased graduation requirements, students and their parents often must choose electives for reasons other than personal enrichment and enjoyment (Darling- Hammond, 2007). In accordance with the NCLB Act, a school's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is determined by test scores (Darling-Hammond, 2007; Gay, 2007; Spohn, 2008). The prescriptive nature of the NCLB Act was characterized by Gay (2007) who asserted,

The content knowledge priorities of NCLB are so unbalanced as to defy even the most narrowly conceived notions of what constitutes quality curriculum. The importance of students learning math, science and reading is unquestionable, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Students need more well-rounded knowledge and skills to be considered genuinely educated and competent to take their rightful place in the present-day society, and to craft a more desirable one in the future, (p. 283)

Citing the work of Dan Pink, Spohn (2008) stated that "arts-integrated learning increases complex cognitive processes in students and promotes positive risk taking, an increase in self- confidence, motivation, focus, persistence in performing tasks, and collaborative learning" (p. 9). In addition to the inherent artistic and academic merit of music, the potential to show academic achievement differences as a function of being enrolled in a music class may increase the credibility of music classes (Cmcec, Wilson, & Prior, 2006; Southgate & Roscigno, 2009). The loss of opportunities for instruction in the music may also have a negative impact on the potential for students in music to experience transfer (Foregard, Winner, Norton, & Schlaug, 2008, p. 3566). Transfer has been defined as "the effect that training (or skill acquisition) in one domain might have on skills and cognitive performances in other domains" (Foregard et al., 2008).

Additionally, a dearth of research exists in which high school music students have been studied in the context of their educational environment. Although standardized testing has been prescribed by the NCLB Act, few studies of students in music have been conducted with adequate sample sizes. Finally, few studies exist in which music students' standardized test scores were compared to scores from students who did not study music.

Significance of the Study

Music is an integral part of everyday life (Campbell et al., 2007). Student involvement in music has been proposed as a means to increase academic performance (e.g., Butzlaff, 2000; Rauscher & Hinton, 2006; Standley, 2008). A dearth of available research with significant sample sizes has been conducted to explore the differences, if any, between state standardized test scores (e.g., TAKS) for students enrolled in music, and students who were not enrolled in choir, band, or orchestra. This study may add to the limited body of knowledge on correlations between standardized testing and fine arts, as well as inform policy makers and help clarify and justify fine arts course offerings. …

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