Music Programs in Public High Schools Contribute to Higher Attendance and Graduation Rates

Should the New Core Curriculum be Reading, Writing, Arithmetic—and Music?

October 30, 2006

High school principals strongly believe that music education promotes the academic success of their students, according to a study released by NAMM and MENC: The National Association for Music Education.

A key finding of the study, conducted by Harris Interactive, shows that the vast majority of school administrators interviewed believe that music education has a powerful and lasting impact upon their students, making music education an essential element of every child's education. In fact, 96 percent of public school principals interviewed believe that participating in music education encourages and motivates students to stay in school longer, and 89 percent agree that music education contributes to higher graduation rates.

"We have seen firsthand how music education provides a solid foundation for children to become productive, successful adults, and so have school administrators from across the nation," said Joe Lamond, president and CEO, NAMM. "Music benefits every generation, but it is particularly important to the development of children, providing them with more opportunities for success early in life."

While the majority of school principals agree that music education is an important element in enabling students to be successful, (on average) less than 10 percent of a high school's instructional budget is allocated to its music program. In fact, on average, more than 20 percent of a school's music budget is funded from outside the school through fundraising efforts. This lack of funding is one of the reasons why only 50 percent of public high schools include music as a core academic subject, and only two thirds of these high schools require participation in a music or other arts course for graduation.

NAMM is taking steps to close this divide by partnering with groups such as MENC to provide school administrators with the evidence they need to institute or maintain music education in their schools.

"We've always known that music education is critical to keeping our students competitive and successful in school and in life," said John J. Mahlmann, executive director of MENC. "The study makes clear that America's principals also understand the strong link between vibrant school music and student success."

Though the arts, which includes music, was designated as a core academic subject by the No Child Left Behind Act, the act does not specify standards for arts education. Instead it focuses on requirements for traditional subjects of math and reading, and prompts schools to focus more on their testing results. Twenty percent of principals feel that the No Child Left Behind Act has had an effect on the quality and scope of their schools' music programs, and about half of these principals identify the effect as negative. Fortunately, four out of five school administrators who do have music programs ensure that their students receive the best music education possible, basing their music curriculum on district, state or national standards and requiring their music teachers to be credentialed.

About MENC: The National Association for Music Education
MENC: The National Association for Music Education, the world's largest arts education organization, is the only association that addresses all aspects of music education. More than 130,000 members represent all levels of teaching from preschool to graduate school. Since 1907, MENC has worked to ensure that every student has access to a well-balanced, comprehensive and high-quality program of music instruction taught by qualified teachers. MENC's activities and resources have been largely responsible for the establishment of music education as a profession, for the promotion and guidance of music study as an integral part of the school curriculum, and for the development of the National Standards for Arts Education.