While making cuts to literacy initiatives or math programs may seem cringe-worthy, "extras" such as music and other arts subjects are typically the first to go when a school's budget starts to buckle. When budget cuts negatively impact music education programs, the students often suffer from a lack of quality teacher specialists and the inability to explore -- and learn through -- the arts.
Before looking at how music education cuts can affect students, it's important to understand why these programs lead to learning and development. While music may not seem on par with reading and math lessons, it can actually facilitate learning in multiple other subject areas. Music activities can help students improve their language skills, develop social competencies and may boost IQ, according to an article at PBS Parents. Additionally, music can help children to develop spatial-temporal skills that can later translate into increased mathematics abilities. Although music isn't the sole vehicle for developing these abilities, it's a viable alternative that can help students grow in ways they otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to.
If the words "budget cuts" immediately take you to thoughts of eliminating programs, think again. Not all cuts mean the complete abandonment of an arts or music department. Some schools may, in an effort to keep the program afloat, simply pare down their teaching staff. This may include using generalist teachers to instruct music classes, cutting the teacher's hours or spreading one teacher among several different schools in the same district. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics notes that in the 2009-10 school year over half of the teachers they surveyed had to teach music classes at more than one primary school. The inability of schools to afford a full-time music specialist at each school makes it challenging for students to receive consistent instruction or find help when needed. If a child has music on Mondays and her teacher isn't at the school again for another week, she has no hopes of having a question answered in a timely manner.
Although keeping music alive in an academic environment typically revolves around educational areas, these programs can also help students to develop personal skills and abilities that are essential for healthy growth. The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) notes that making music can help students to build confidence, lessen the likelihood of developing depression, lower blood pressure and assist in reducing stress. Cutting music out of the school day means students won't receive these health-promoting benefits.
Making budget cuts to a music program doesn't just have an immediate impact on students. The National Association for Music Education (NAFME) notes that taking music out of the educational equation can negatively affect students' futures when it comes to graduating from high school and getting into college. Graduation rates in schools with active music education programs are statistically higher than those without -- with a 90.2 percent rate for schools with music and a 72.9 percent rate for schools without -- according to the NAFME. Additionally, students who consistently participate in music classes and instruction score higher on standardized tests, including the college-required SAT test. Cutting music from schools means cutting these positive benefits as well, decreasing the students' potential future success rates.
- American Federation of School Administrators: Art. Music Classes Fall Victim to Budget Cuts
- Wisconsin Education Association Council: Cuts in Arts Programs Leave Sour Note in Schools
- PBS Parents: The Benefits of Music Education
- National Center for Education Statistics: Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools 1999-2000 and 2009-2010
- National Association of Music Merchants: The Wanna Play? Campaign
- National Association for Music Education: The Benefits of the Study of Music
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