Music’s Impact on Academic Success

MUSIC CLASSES ARE A VITAL PART of student academic achievement. The importance of music and fine arts has been debated in school board rooms across the country for several years. As budgets are trimmed and school music programs are cut, this becomes an important question to answer. These music and arts programs are an important component of student learning and success.

Music programs are not extras!

Instrumental and vocal music classes are often referred to as “extracurricular” classes. Music is anything but “extracurricular”. Music classes offer many benefits which make them very indispensable. Performance programs enhance a student’s sense of self esteem as well as their social skills. Students become a part of a positive group and organization. Not only do students profit socially from music programs, but they also gain academically.

Several studies have confirmed that music directly enhances learning through increased spatial development. Math and reading are improved by learning rhythms and decoding notes and symbols. So there appears to be cross disciplinary learning in music.

Music makes the grade!

For years elementary teachers have decried the music pullout program (students are taken out of class to receive music instruction once or twice a week) because of “lost instruction” time. But according to many studies these fears are unfounded.

Researchers in Hamilton, Ohio, documented that students participating in a string pullout program scored higher on the reading, mathematics and citizenship portions of the Ohio Proficiency Test (OPT), than their non-music peers.

This study paired string and non-music students based on their verbal Cognitive Abilities Test (COGAT). Four groups of string students were released two times a week for instruction. Two of those four groups scored significantly higher on the reading and mathematics portion of the OPT than their non-music peers. Additionally, 68% of string students scored at grade level or higher on all four sections of the test compared to 58% of the non-music students. For more information (Michael D. Wallick, Ohio City Schools)

In high school, the results are also convincing. Every year juniors and seniors take the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) for college admissions . These scores reflect several years of education and are intended to judge a persons over-all education.

Source: The College Board, Profile of College- Bound Seniors National Report for 2001.

SAT scores of students who took part in music instruction surpassed students with no music training. Data collected from students taking the SAT, indicated that students taking music and arts averaged scores that were higher than non music students by 60 points on the verbal section and 43 points on the math section.

Additionally, data revealed that for every year a student participated in music instruction, their SAT scores improved. Students with four or more years of music study recieved an average score of about 544 as opposed to a score just above 482 for those with half a at least one semester of music instruction, thus showing a strong correlation between music and academic success. (For more information see MENC Web Page)

Source: The College Board, Profile of College- Bound Seniors National Report for 2001.

Whether the results are a reflection of a direct cognitive connection or other factors, such as higher self-esteem, and involvement in school, the outcome is no less important. Music does influence and impact student learning and success.

Music for everyone

The fact is, music is an important avenue to individual success. Music should be made available to all students in all schools. Music programs hold an influential place in school and academic structure. When consideration is being given to program and budget cuts administrators, parents, counselors and teachers need to know that music education is not just an “extra” elective to fill students’ schedules, but a vital part of a complete”academic” education.