Music content in state early learning guidelines: a content analysis
Shepherd, Jaclyn Sandra
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As a result of the Good Start, Grow Smart Initiative (GSGS) in 2002, states began developing Early Learning Guidelines (ELGs), which are utilized by state funded programs for children ages 3 to 5. Although GSGS recommended that states include literacy, language, and pre-reading skills in ELGs, many states developed more comprehensive documents that included broader ranges of skills and activities consistent with each state's conceptualization of what constitutes quality learning environments for this age group. Consequently, music content, if included in ELGs, may vary from state to state. Three national standards documents may have informed music standards included in ELGs, such as The National Music Standards for Prekindergarten, Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) All-Criteria Document. I conducted a content analysis of state ELGs: 1) to determine what musical behaviors and activities states have codified as official knowledge within quality learning environments for young children, and 2) to ascertain the extent to which the musical content reflects music standards included in national prekindergarten standards documents. Findings indicated that the broadly-framed Head Start and NAEYC music indicators were well-represented in state ELGs. The majority of ELGs have addressed two of the Content Standards of The National Music Standards for Prekindergarten, "Singing and Playing Instruments" (88%) and "Responding to Music" (74%). The Content Standards "Creating Music" and "Understanding Music" were addressed in far fewer ELGs (27% and 33%, respectively). The more prescriptive Achievement Standards were less frequently included in ELGs. Additionally, 14.33% of all music-related indictors included in state ELGs did not reflect the music content of any of the national standards and guidelines; rather, the indicators represented additional music content (for example, audience skills), music activities that promote social and emotional development, and facilitating learning in other curriculum areas. When ELGs were examined through a conceptual framework of policy and Developmentally Appropriate Practice, a co-mingling of standards and guidelines constructs was found, suggesting that state ELG committees attempted to balance the opposing segments, resulting in re-contextualization of the content selected for inclusion in the ELGs.