Who Takes Music with Them When They Transition to High School?



Tucker, Tevis L

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While there is ample evidence that music is one of the most widely available and enrolled-in arts elective among American adolescents today, less is known about how this relates to continued enrollment within music (i.e., persistence). According to claims from music educators, persistence beyond a student’s initial enrollment in middle and high school music is a real problem in the U.S. and worldwide, making one-time enrollment metrics a misleading indicator of music’s popularity and success in schools. Empirical evidence that verifies music educators’ claims, all while exploring the various ways that students who persist differ from those who do not, is long overdue. This paper builds off prior work with the Miami School Readiness Project (MSRP; Winsler et al., 2020; Alegrado & Winsler, 2020), by prospectively following a large (n = 3,393), majority Hispanic (62%), sample of adolescents from middle to high school (8th–9th grade), to better understand predictors of persistence within in-school music electives. Overall, only 24.5% of students taking any music elective in 8th grade continued to take any music elective in 9th grade (persistence rates varied when only looking within each music type; band, chorus, guitar, orchestra). Regression analyses showed that more academically competent students (higher 8th grade GPA and 8th grade reading and math scores), and students with disabilities, were more likely to persist with any music from 8th to 9th grade (predictors varied when looking within each music type). A multigroup analysis directly compared what predictors of any-music persistence varied by music type, finding there was significant moderation across music types with respect to the effect of gender, gifted status, and math scores on any-music persistence. Implications, for both music educators and researchers, are discussed.



Music education, Transition to high school, Music electives, Persistence, Retention, Attrition