Research Matters

Research Matters

Music Boosts Test Scores




[an error occurred while processing this directive]


Students may want to put down their pencils and pick up their piccolos. A recent study shows schools with excellent music programs show better results on standardized tests in math and English.

Aired March 31, 2008

2 minutes (2.5 MB) | Download mp3


Research shows that quality school music programs boost performance on standardized tests. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Students may want to put down their pencils and pick up their piccolos. In a time when emphasis on testing often has meant cutbacks for school music programs, a study by KU researcher Christopher Johnson shows that slashing music could undermine standardized test performance in math and English.

Christopher Johnson: "We picked schools that were elementary or junior high that were fairly well matched in every demographic, except what was going on in their music classrooms. We looked for classrooms that had outstanding music education going on and classrooms that were less than adequate."

Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy and associate dean of the School of Fine Arts at KU, found jumps of 22 percent in English test scores and 20 percent in math scores at elementary schools with superior music education. Results were similar in middle schools. One theory holds that higher scores result because music helps to develop attentiveness.

Christopher Johnson: "When you sit down and do a standardized test you are on task trying to concentrate and focus for an extended period of time. And there's really not a lot of things in school that require you to that. You can do a couple of math problems, get off task, look at the wall. You know, read a couple of lines in English and zone out. But if you zone out in band you're likely to be playing a solo. If you zone out in choir, you might sing a solo - that has to be just as mortifying."

Ultimately, Johnson says music education should thrive on its own merits.

Christopher Johnson: "It would be ridiculous to say, 'OK, put a good chorus in your school and your test results are going to go up 20 percent. That's not the reason we should have a good chorus in our school. The reason we should have a good chorus is because we should have one. Every kid should be able to sing in a good chorus and play in a good instrumental ensemble because of the things that music offers."

For more about music and test scores, log onto Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

Tell Me More

KU professor finds link between music programs, academic achievement

LAWRENCE - Music has inspired people to dance, sing and create songs of their own for centuries, but can it also inspire improved academic performance? A recently published study by University of Kansas professor Christopher Johnson argues that it does.

Read the full press release