Findings from the 2013-14 Season

An education in music has been linked to higher levels of academic achievement, but it is not known how music education may achieve these effects. One possibility is that music education fosters the development of other more proximal domains such as perseverance or prosocial behaviors, and that it is through fostering development in these areas that music education may ultimately influence distal outcomes such as academic achievement.

In 2013 the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra retained WolfBrown to assess whether participation in it's Character, Achievement, and Music Project (NJSO CHAMPS) may confer benefits to students' academic achievement, perseverance, prosocial behaviors, intrapersonal skills, and future orientation? To address these questions, data were collected from 36 students enrolled in CHAMPS and a comparison group of 24 students attending the same grades and classrooms at University Heights Charter School (UHCS). A series of measures were collected from students, their parents or caregivers, their UHCS teachers, and their primary instructors in CHAMPS. Most measures were collected twice, coinciding with the first and final two weeks of the CHAMPS program, and these were supplemented by year-end data provided by UHCS.

Analyses focused on students' scores on post-Champs assessments while controlling for students' scores on pre-Champs assessments. Controlling for pre-Champs scores allows us to attribute differences in post- Champs scores to the program's influence with more confidence, and constitute a stronger form of evidence of the program's effects. While there was no evidence that enrollment in Champs was associated with higher levels of academic achievement, enrollment was associated with higher parent ratings of children's prosocial behaviors, as well as higher child ratings of their own intrapersonal skills and future orientation for girls. Students rated as more highly-engaged in Champs by their teaching artists were rated as exhibiting higher levels of perseverance by their in-school, UHCS teachers, while parents of more highly-engaged boys also rated their children as exhibiting higher levels of perseverance. UHCS teachers also rated more highly-engaged students as displaying higher levels of prosocial behavior, while more highly-engaged boys reported higher levels of prosocial behavior for themselves. In many cases, the sizes of the effects associated with both enrollment and engagement in CHAMPS were large.

Though our evaluation was not without limitations (i.e., a small sample size that constrained statistical power), it did provide evidence that CHAMPS may contribute to the development of key outcomes, including perseverance, prosocial behaviors, intrapersonal skills, and future orientation. Fostering these characteristics in students can have long-lasting consequences for life outcomes that are in the end more important than grades or test scores, and achieving those long-lasting effects is the ultimate goal of CHAMPS: to harness the power of music to change lives.

Consultant: Steven Holochwost
Year complete: 2014