The value of allocated time: a comparative case study of fourth-grade general music classes in two economically disadvantaged elementary schools
Tipton, Neal Harvey
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Allocated time for public school elementary general music classes is an issue that has been overlooked and could be negatively affecting low-socioeconomic status (SES) children. Music may be one elementary school subject that is not prioritized, at least in terms of its allocated time. Compared to high-SES students, low-SES students are typically less able to supplement what they are learning in music class with non-school music education resources, making the problem of ignoring allocated music time in public elementary schools an issue of arts access and equity. In this dual case study, the researcher investigated the effects of unequal access to elementary music education by comparing the perceptions of music teachers, principals, and students in two low-SES elementary schools with different amounts of allocated time for their music classes. The study was conducted at two elementary schools with a majority of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch. Participants included a music teacher, principal, and two students, from each school. Data consisted of interviews of the participants, artifact data concerning the curriculum, and a formal appraisal of one fourth-grade class at each campus using the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). Data were used to describe the differences between the two schools in terms of teachers’ perceived abilities to achieve their curricular goals, principals’ expressed valuing of music education, and students’ perceived and observed levels of success. Results of within-case and cross-case analyses indicated the following: (a) the music teachers at both campuses claimed to be satisfied with their ability to deliver their respective curricula, but the teacher at the low-music-time campus regularly sacrificed her own lunch, conference, and before and after school times to help students individually with learning parts for performances, or any other music tutoring needs they may have had; (b) administrators’ experiences with music as children and as teachers seemed to impact their belief systems regarding the value of music education; and (c) students at both campuses showed evidence of untapped potential in terms of creativity and musicianship, but the students at the campus with the greater amount of music time showed more evidence of reaching their potential. Implications from this study include the need for music teachers to initiate and maintain professional relationships with administrators and students by getting to know their musical background stories and respecting their points of view.