Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What About Those Test Scores?

Kindergartners proudly sing "This is My Violin"
The arts are often difficult to quantify.  When Glacier Valley first launched JAMM, we knew we were in a unique position.
  1. JAMM takes place during school hours, which eliminates variables connected with after-school programs or charter schools whose families may be self-selecting based on interest, transportation, etc.
  2. ALL kindergartners receive violin instruction, which solves the challenge of establishing a random sample.
  3. Glacier Valley is a Title I, which means many of our children are eligible for free and reduced lunch, identifying them as at-risk
Should make for a solid research study, right?  Not exactly.  In order to establish a causal link between instrumental music and academic success, JAMM would need to identify a control group among its kindergartners.  This would mean denying some of our students free violin instruction, something JAMM would not consider.

What we could do is establish a correlational link by comparing the kindergartners fall and spring MAP (Measurement of Academic Success).  By doing so, we'd also be comparing their scores before and after receiving eight months of violin instruction.

What were the results?  In the words of Phil Loseby, the Juneau School District's Assessment Coordinator, "Significant!"

Here are the results in graph form:

GV Kindergartners' Fall Reading Scores:  No Violin Instruction

GV Kindergartners' Winter Reading Scores:  5 months of Violin Instruction

GV Kindergartners' Spring Reading Scores:  8 months of Violin Instruction

Here are their year-end scores in math:

GV Kindergartners' Spring Math Scores

These scores certainly caught the attention of the school district!  Even though JAMM can't make a causal link between music and academic success, it mirrors the ever-growing body of research that can. 

Glacier Valley continues to work with the school district to identify ways to measure JAMM's success. In the eyes of the participating teachers, students, parents and sponsors; JAMM's success is apparent and meeting its goals of community pride, parental involvement and student engagement.

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