National Data Sets

What if elementary general music programs were cut from the public schools?

This question was one of the prime motivations for a recent exploratory research study IU colleague and co-author Dr. Brent Gault and I conducted. Resources for elementary music programs as pertains to specialist faculty, time for instruction, and space and materials are perhaps especially vulnerable to cutbacks and fiscal instability. This is perhaps partly due to the relative lack of community visibility that elementary music programs enjoy in comparison to secondary school music programs.

We were curious as to what types of experiences might be left over for students should elementary music specialist-led programs be cut – and how those experiences might vary for students from different demographic segments of the nation?

ECLS wordle copy 

The background:

We analyzed publicly available data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) conducted by the National Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences, and the National Center for Educational Statistics. The ECLS collected data about a nationally representative cohort of approximately 3.8 million kindergarten children (K class of 1999) as they progressed through elementary and middle school.

Regarding music, the ECLS collected information about the nature of the musical experiences the children received in their academic classroom setting as opposed to their music class-specific experiences. As such, the data allow for a rough estimate of the kinds and amounts of musical experiences students receive from their academic classroom teachers apart from those that may be delivered from an elementary music specialist.

Drawing from the data that were available, our analyses were conducted to determine:

  • The frequency and duration with which children received music instruction in their academic classroom setting
  • The frequency that music was used to teach math in the academic classroom setting
  • The percentage of children receiving formal/private music instruction outside of school
    • We also examined each these types of experiences according to student urbanicity (i.e., rural, suburban, urban location), socioeconomic status, and race.

Classroom teachers most frequently reported engaging children in some sort of music activity once or twice a week for 30 minutes or less. This excerpt serves as a summary of our most compelling findings regarding access to such classroom experiences:

Music instruction (in the academic classroom setting) appears to be… …less available for students of color from urban and rural settings and of lower socioeconomic status. In addition, access to privatized formal instruction seems readily available for those children who are arguably the least in need and significantly lacking for those with the greatest need.” (Miksza & Gault, Online First, 2014, p. 11)

We’re happy to report that the article is now available as an “online first” offering in the Journal of Research in Music Education.

Miksza, P., & Gault, B. (online first, 2014). Classroom music experiences of US elementary school children: An analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of 1998-99 (ECLS-K). Journal of Research in Music Education, 62, 4-17. 

Theoretipracticaliexpealidocious

Preface

This post includes a few brief, light-hearted thoughts I put out to the music education graduate research colloquium today during our faculty roundtable on the theme of, “Intersections Between Research and Practice.” This event was intended to be an introductory colloquium during which the faculty shared 5- to 7-minute reflections on how they see their own research impacting their practical concerns. If you’re curious, this was my take…

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“Believe Me, There’s Nothing Boring About Statistics”

This is a terrific BBC documentary on stats – for those of you that enjoy the insights that statistical analyses can yield, check it out. I realize this has probably made the internet rounds a few times over, but it’s too good not to share…

Watch the video “The Joy of Stats” at the Gapminder website.

Also – the Gapminder website is generally amazing. Playing with the map is great fun.

It’s fun to imagine the ways such approaches to data analysis and visualization could enhance what we know about music education in the world.

 

Arts Ed: Reasons to Advocate and Levers to Pull

Reasons to advocate: Inspiring stories

The collegiate chapter of the National Association for Music Education at IU (see their blog!) recently participated in the music advocacy groundswell event (found here) by collecting stories from children about why music matters to them. They made efforts to contact public school teachers in the greater Bloomington area and reached out to the teachers from their hometowns. They ended up collecting nearly 18,000 words worth of inspirational stories of how music has played an essential role in kids’ lives across the country.

The comments the children made are powerful to say the least… they speak of many benefits of music that we, as musicians and teachers, know to be true – finding a place to belong, uncovering a special talent, learning about themselves, developing a means of self-expression, bringing them closer together with friends and family, connecting to a greater community, music as a release and a joy, the acquisition of skills and dispositions that are benefits in other areas of life, etc.

Here is a word cloud from the collection of stories that emphasizes the sentiments the students most commonly expressed – click on it for a close-up:

Better wordle 2

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