Music instruction at school and its impact on learning

atlantic imageI go into many schools over the course of a year, many of which are in urban settings and serve at risk students, and if, during the time that I’m visiting, there is music playing somewhere in the building, I will always find a way to that classroom or practice room and take a few minutes to stand and listen or talk with the music teacher, if he or she is between classes. I was in a school yesterday, in fact, that during a previous visit had students playing drums and xylophones in the foyer, for all the school to hear.

Like the sound of music in a school, this article in the Atlantic, by Lori Miller Kase, caught me, made me pause, for while some schools that I visit have music programs, most do not, these programs cut to make way for more language arts and mathematics. Kase’s article and the new research that she profiles suggest that this kind of curricular cut is shortsighted, as researchers begin to discover that “music instruction not only improves children’s communication skills, attention, and memory, but that it may even close the academic gap between rich and poor students.” See this webinar from Dr. Nina Kraus, a professor and neuroscientist at Northwestern, who presents findings in this area.

For me it’s another baby/bathwater issue when it comes to school- and district-level decisions: Yes, maybe scheduling more time for math and language arts will close that gap just as well, but more often than not, that decision to winnow down what kids get during an academic day is not made as thoughtfully as possible – is not as research-based, best-practices-focused as possible. Well, here’s research coming along – what Kraus and others are pursuing – that I hope will stem the winnowing, certainly since it may have an important impact on closing the achievement gap.

The above image was at this page of the Atlantic website.

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