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Relationships Between School Music Ensemble Participation and Academic Achievement in the USA

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The purpose of this study was to examine relationships between school music participation and a composite measure of academic achievement in American schools. The authors examined the first (baseline) year

The purpose of this study was to examine relationships between school music participation and a composite measure of academic achievement in American schools. The authors examined the first (baseline) year of a longitudinal study commissioned by the National Center for Education Statistics, conducted in 1988 (NELS:88/94 Data Analysis system, with Additional Systems for High School and Beyond and the National Longitudinal Study of 1972, NCES, 1996). The data set contains information on more than 23,000 American middle school students, and is thought to be representative of the national as a whole.

Several previous researchers employing causal modeling techniques have found relationships between extracurricular activities and education attainment as measured by standardized academic achievement tests. In music, students with school band and orchestra experience make significantly higher grades in high school mathematics, English, and social science than do non-performing students, and instrumental music instruction seems to improve scores on tests of spatial-temporal ability, which is thought to correlate with ability in mathematics.

The present study confirmed previous findings on relationships among music participation and academic achievement. Significantly more students in school music choral or instrumental groups ranked above the 50th percentile in academic grades than did other students (p < .05). For instrumental students, these results held true for all four socioeconomic quartiles, for both boys and girls, and for all races/ethnicities. For choral students, only students in the third and fourth quartiles and Caucasian students ranked significantly higher than other students.

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  • 2000