Donna J. Gallo

Donna J. Gallo

Professional Development Quality in American Music Education: An Analysis of the 2011-2012 Schools and Staffing Survey

High quality professional development opportunities for educators are key elements in sustaining and growing arts education programs and keeping these programs relevant in the face of curriculum reforms. The purpose of this study was to compare differences in quality of and school-provided supports for professional development between U.S. music educators and teachers of other disciplines, particularly high-stakes disciplines like English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. A secondary purpose was to compare differences in mentorship quality and other school-provided supports for beginning U.S. music educators to teachers of other disciplines. Data were drawn from the 2011-2012 Schools and Staffing Survey restricted-use dataset conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Factors such as types of professional development, quantity of activities, first-year teacher supports, and levels of satisfaction were analyzed through a series of multiple regression models to determine the relationships between professional development quality for teachers of higher-stakes and lower-stakes disciplines. State fixed effects were added to the regressions, controlling for potential differences in professional development policies.

Results indicated that first-year music educators were significantly less likely to receive the same quality of mentorship and other school-provided supports for professional development than other disciplines. Additionally, music educators were significantly less likely to collaborate with other educators on issues of instruction than educators in higher-stakes disciplines, and they engaged in significantly less technology-related professional activity; however, music educators reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction with content-specific professional activity than teachers of other disciplines, and engaged in significantly more content-specific activity than some higher-stakes disciplines. There were no significant differences by teaching discipline in the amount of school-provided financial and temporal supports for professional development.

While the findings support previous research of first-year music educators in that they receive lower quality professional development provided by the schools, these findings are inconsistent when investigating all music educators’ professional activity in comparison to educators of higher-stakes disciplines. In light of educational policies and trends, the common assumption that music educators are generally less supported within their schools (e.g., lower quality professional development or less financial support for professional learning) does not hold true. Implications of this study include the need for university educators and school policy makers to strengthen the support provided to early career music educators such as partnerships with local music teacher mentors (preferably in the same district), music-specific induction programs, and university partnerships that support alumni during their first years in the field. Music educators should become advocates for high quality professional development and these learning experiences might be modeled in preservice teacher education such as organizing high quality collaborative teacher groups during praxis or student teaching experiences. This study also suggests that all educators should receive more time spent in professional learning congruent to the level of engagement espoused by research literature.

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