High School Academic Outcomes Associated with Middle- and High-school Music Enrollment among Low-income, Ethnically Minoritized Students

Alenamie Namata Alegrado

Advisor: Adam Winsler, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Thalia Goldstein, Tim Curby

Johnson Center, #325, Meeting Room A
May 06, 2024, 09:00 AM to 11:00 AM


Researchers have long studied the relationship between music training on cognitive and academic outcomes (Corrigall & Trainor, 2011; Gardiner et al., 1996; Schellenberg, 2004; Shaw, 2022) and infer connections between musical experiences and non-music outcomes. However, inconsistent findings leave researchers questioning the possibility of transfer effects (Schellenberg, 2019; Winner & Cooper, 2000). Because pre-existing advantages support both academic performance and selection into music electives, it is challenging to disentangle the possible impact of music from a child’s natural and/or privileged trajectory. Researchers interested in the “effects” of in-school music participation who cannot employ random assignment must understand and control for pre-existing differences between music and non-music groups using longitudinal, quasi-experimental methods to examine outcomes. This is the method I employ in my dissertation.

The current large-scale, 5-cohort, 14-year longitudinal study followed a large (n = 20,508) sample of mostly low-income (80% qualify for free/reduced-price lunch) and ethnically minoritized (63% Hispanic, 30% Black, 6% White/Other, 1% Asian) students from preschool through middle and high school (6th-12th grade) in a large metropolitan, public school system. Information on student demographics, course enrollment, and academic performance were collected from school records/transcripts and cognitive school readiness was directly assessed at age four.

The following research questions were explored 1) After controlling for selection factors (i.e., gender, race/ethnicity, SES, disability status, ELL status, age 4 cognitive skills, and 8th grade GPA) and enrollment in other arts electives in high school, are there differences in high school academic outcomes (i.e., 12th grade overall GPA, academic GPA, days absent, suspension, and graduation) between high school music and non-music students? 2) Does earlier 8th grade GPA moderate the relationship between years of music enrollment (0-4 years for high school and 0-7 years for middle and high school combined) and 12th grade academic outcomes? 3) Does diversity/breadth of music enrollment (i.e., enrollment in multiple types of music vs. staying with the same type of music) matter in predicting high school outcomes related to music participation?