Justifying Music Education: Econometric Analyses of Issues in Music Education Policy
The purpose of this study was (1) to determine whether music students outperform nonmusic students on standardized tests once systematic differences between music and non-music students had been statistically controlled; and (2) to estimate the effects of Goals 2000 and its federal declaration of “core status” for the arts on the quality of high school music programs in the United States.
For the first research question, data were drawn from the restricted-use dataset of the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), a nationally representative education study (N = 15,630) conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Analyses of transcript data from ELS:2002 showed that 1.093 million students (36.64% of the U.S. class of 2004) graduated high school having earned at least one course credit in music. I used fixed effects regression to compare standardized test scores of these music students to their non-music peers while controlling for variables from the domains of demography, prior academic achievement, time use, and attitudes toward school. Results indicated that music students do not outperform non-music students on the SAT once these systematic differences have been statistically controlled. The obtained pattern of results remained consistent and robust through internal replications with other standardized tests and when disaggregating music students by type of music studied.
For the second research question, school level data were drawn from ELS:2002 and from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88). Cross-sectional school-level data (N = 480 schools) from NELS:88 and ELS:2002 were independently pooled to estimate the effects of Goals 2000 on (1) the number of unique music courses high schools offered, (2) the probability that high schools would enforce a local arts graduation requirement, and (3) the number of arts course locally required. Results showed no effect of Goals 2000 on the number of unique music courses offered. However, for schools in states that prior to Goals 2000 had no arts education mandate or a flexible arts education mandate, the policy caused a significant increase in the probability that an arts course would be required for graduation and significantly increased the number of arts credits required.