Stop the Steep Decline of Music Education in American Public Schools

Target: Alexander Goniprow, US Department of Education – Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

Goal: Strengthen arts education in elementary, middle and high schools

With budget cuts pervading the past and present of our educational system, music programs pushed to the periphery of  our nation’s idea of education are receiving the short end of an already truncated stick.  Music education – and that of all the arts – is vital to the school experience and has consistently been linked to lower dropout rates and increased performance in other subjects.  The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 has resulted in a pronounced narrowing of the public school curriculum that has decreased availability of music courses, and in some cases has ousted music programs entirely.  Demand a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind that will keep music brightening the minds of our country’s children.

The biggest factors concerning a balanced piece of educational legislation are the measures taken to cover all “core subjects” and the definition of that term.  The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (part of No Child Left Behind) did include dance, music, theater, and visual arts as core subjects, but it did not include a good system to ensure public schools kept up those programs.  The act also put a stronger focus on math and language arts than other subjects.  In a recent national survey of 3rd to 12th grade teachers, two thirds (66%) said that other subjects “get crowded out by extra attention being paid to math or language arts.”

While the fact that music programs are getting cut or downsized left and right is no mystery, what fewer people know is how beneficial and comparatively inexpensive music education is.  Experts have found a correlation between students with music experience and higher SAT scores, and in a 1990 study released by physician and biologist Lewis Thomas, 66% of music majors who applied to medical school were accepted – the highest percentage of any group.  Cost was also proven to be comparatively low in a recently released study by the National Association of Music Merchants (a not-for-profit association).  The study found that a comprehensive education program for kindergarten through high school costs only about $187 per student annually.  With all this in mind, it is abundantly clear that we cannot afford to cut music from our public schools.

The solution to the problem lies in a reauthorization and revision of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).   Each year, a large coalition of arts advocacy groups drafts a series of ideas for amending this act.  In addition to the arts being retained in the definition of Core Academic Subjects of Learning, it is vital that annual state reports on student access to core academic subjects be required.  Without these annual reports, there is no way to guarantee music and arts education in our schools.

So far, the prospect of reauthorizing No Child Left Behind has been talked about only dubiously during Obama’s second term. We cannot leave the education of our future generations up to outdated and disintegrating legislation.  Tell Alexander Goniprow to  make education a priority and reauthorize No Child Left Behind.


Dear Secretary Goniprow,

The current state of the No Child Left Behind act is disgraceful.  The standards of education are impossible to reach and the waivers handed out to get around the legislation are only a temporary measure.  It has been widely speculated that the act was never meant to exist unchanged for as long as it has.  How much longer can we let important core subjects be crowded out by NCLB’s bias towards math and language arts?

Music education has been linked to better school performance time and time again, but it continues to receive much less attention than other subjects.  Our country cannot afford to continue sacrificing its education and resulting innovative potential.  Reauthorization of NCLB must be a made priority for Barack Obama’s second term.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit:  Brent Moore via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. Music is essential for development and intelligence. It is a universal art that encourages the best in all human beings.

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