This study examined whether music education was associated with improved performance on measures of academic achievement and executive functions. Participants were 265 school-age children (Grades 1 through 8, 58% female, and 86% African American) who were selected by lottery to participate in an out-of-school program offering individual- and large-ensemble training on orchestral instruments.
Measures of academic achievement (standardized test scores and grades in English language arts and math) were taken from participants’ academic records, whereas executive functions (EFs) were assessed through students’ performance on a computerized battery of common EF tasks. Results indicated that, relative to controls, students in the music education program scored higher on standardized tests, t(217) = 2.74, p = .007; earned better grades in English language arts, t(163) = 3.58, p < .001, and math, t(163) = 2.56, p = .011; and exhibited superior performance on select tasks of EFs and short-term memory.
Further analyses revealed that although the largest differences in performance were observed between students in the control group and those who had received the music program for 2 to 3 years, conditional effects were also observed on 3 EF tasks for students who had been in the program for 1 year. These findings are discussed in light of current educational policy, with a particular emphasis on the implications for future research designed to understand the pathways connecting music education and EFs. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)