Today Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) sent a letter to David Walker, the Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), requesting that the GAO conduct a study on access to music and arts education in the American public school system since passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. This week, Senators Dodd and Alexander also introduced a resolution recognizing the benefits and importance of school-based music education. Senators Dodd and Alexander are members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and are Chairman and Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Children and Families.
“No child should be deprived of the chance to explore his or her creativity in a nurturing educational environment,” said Dodd. “Picking up a musical instrument, a paint brush, or a script can allow a child to discover a hidden talent and can serve as a much-needed positive influence in the midst of the many difficult decisions that young people face today. I am hopeful that the GAO will act quickly to deliver findings about the current condition of arts education in American public schools so that we can seek to improve it during the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.”
Added Alexander: “Music Education is important. I had some great teachers, but my piano teacher, Miss Lennis Tedford was the best. From age five until my high school senior recital, I spent thirty minutes with her each week. ‘Don’t play that monkey business,’ she would say, as she could always tell when I’d been playing too much Jerry Lee Lewis. From Miss Tedford I learned more than music. She taught me the discipline of Czerny and the metronome, the logic of Bach, the clean joy of Mozart. She encouraged me to let my emotions run with Chopin and Rachmaninoff. She made sure I was ready for the annual piano competition, and that I performed completely under control. I still thank her for the discipline and love of music she gave me each time I sit at the piano today.”
A companion resolution – introduced by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Jon Porter (R-NV) – passed the House of Representatives on April 26 by unanimous consent.
The full text of the letter is below, and the resolution is attached:
The Honorable David M. Walker
Government Accountability Office
441 G Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20548
Dear Mr. Walker:
We write to request the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on access to music and arts education in our public schools since passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, with a specific focus on any disparities in access between minority and low-income students and their non-minority, more affluent peers. The study should investigate evidence of the possible link between participation in music and arts education and increased student engagement, positive behavior, high school graduation rates and academic achievement for all students, as well as for minority and low-income students and students with disabilities.
As Congress moves toward reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, we continue to examine the goals of educating the whole child and the positive impact of rigorous instruction in all areas of the curriculum. These policy decisions are based on sound research and driven by systematic data collection relating to the condition of education, the practices that improve academic achievement, and the effectiveness of federal education programs. Of particular interest are the effects, since its implementation, of the No Child Left Behind Act on access to music and arts education in our nation's public schools.
Specifically, we request the Government Accountability Office to design and implement a study that determines the following with regard to K-12 academic instruction in our public schools.
(1) Any changes in access to music and arts education since passage of the No Child Left Behind Act.
(2) Access to music and arts education for minority students relative to non-minority students.
(3) Access to music and arts education for low-income students relative to non-low income students.
(4) Any disparities in access to music and arts education, since passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, between schools with high percentages of minority and low-income students and students with disabilities and those schools with low percentages of such students.
(5) Any link between participation in music and arts education and increased student engagement, positive behavior, high school graduation and academic achievement for all students, as well as any such link for minority and low-income students and students with disabilities.
(6) Descriptions of highly effective music and arts education programs that promote increased student engagement, positive behavior, high school graduation and academic achievement.
(7) Identification of any barriers actively imposed by Federal law, regulations, or guidance that prevent schools from engaging students in a rich curriculum that includes music and arts.
Because consideration of the No Child Left Behind Act reauthorization has already begun, the need for this information is immediate. We request that you meet with representatives of our offices as soon as possible to discuss the proposed scope of this study, an appropriate methodology, and a timetable which would establish an interim reporting schedule and completion date.
We look forward to hearing from you regarding this request and your availability to meet as soon as possible to set forth plans for receipt of this information which will provide relevant insights into the impact of No Child Left Behind on access to music and arts education, especially for those students who have the fewest opportunities and greatest need.
Thank you for your assistance.