Quality Music Education Access Contributes to Overall Improvements in School Climate, Research Finds

Mike Lawson • News • May 21, 2019

A new study from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts reveals that even a modest investment in music education, paired with a commitment from the school to include music as part of a well-rounded education, often in conjunction with other initiatives, returns a number of benefits.

Researchers explored music education instruction, specialists and curriculum at Turnaround Arts schools, finding a relationship between higher quality music education and improvements in school climate, lower levels of suspensions, and higher student achievement.
Upon joining the Turnaround Arts program, schools received many benefits including access to a grant of $6,000-10,000 from The NAMM Foundation earmarked for music education. Access to music education at these schools increased from 27.8% to 75%, and the average number of minutes of music instruction per week increased from 17 to 33, nearing the national average of 40 minutes per week.

“Our results indicate that with a relatively small investment, Turnaround Arts schools were able to leverage the investment to make statistically significant gains in access to music education,” said Dr. Charles Beekman, research analysis manager at the Kennedy Center. “Turnaround Arts schools are facing some of the toughest challenges in the country, yet we saw robust and statistically significant correlations between scores on an evidence-based Quality Music Education index with overall school climate and reductions in levels of suspensions, suggesting additional research is warranted.”
When schools’ Quality Music Education (QME) index, which is made up of curriculum, scheduling, and staffing guidelines, went up, schools reported not only that student achievement, specifically in English Language Arts proficiency, was higher, but also that staff’s dedication to student learning went up. Moreover, as schools’ QME rose, levels of suspensions dropped. 
Turnaround Arts is a program of the Kennedy Center that implements arts education as a strategy to bolster school reform efforts in 79 focus and priority elementary and middle schools across the U.S. Since Turnaround Arts’ creation in 2011, The NAMM Foundation has contributed $565,000 in music education expansion grants to Turnaround Arts schools nationwide. The grants are designated to support the development of music programming in Turnaround Arts schools with professional development, instruments, instrument storage and/or maintenance, music-based artist residencies, performance space improvements, or some combination thereof.
“I know firsthand that having music in school helps to keep kids in school and inspired to learn; it did that for me as a kid when I started playing drums at my local public school,” said Chad Smith, Turnaround Artist mentor and drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Working with Turnaround Arts, I’ve had the opportunity to see schools come to life as they join the program and their hallways fill with music and arts. All kids deserve to have access to quality music education in their schools.”
This research project was designed to characterize The NAMM Foundation’s support of Turnaround Arts schools and the impact on the schools’ music education programs and whether the impact was associated with adaptive changes in student adjustment or school climate. Dr. Muna Shami and Dr. Charles Beekman served as co-principal investigators–from the Research and Evaluation department of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Education division.

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