The relationship of curriculum reform to participation in secondary school music classes in Virginia 1978-1988

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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of curriculum reform to participation in secondary school music classes in Virginia 1979-88. The study was conducted through an examination of historical documents from the Virginia State Department of Education, researcher interviews with directors of instruction and music supervisors of nine selected school divisions, researcher interviews with selected members of the State School Board, and the development and administration of the Guidance Counselor Music Support Questionnaire to 500 randomly selected guidance counselors.

The relationship between curriculum reform and participation in secondary school music classes was found to be a complex one. State music enrollments did not decline to the extent state secondary enrollment declined during the overall period of this study. However, drops in music enrollment occurred during the national call for "back to basics" and when increased graduation requirements were implemented in the Virginia schools.

School divisions utilized a variety of strategies to bring about stabilization of secondary school music enrollments. Some of these strategies were more successful than others. One large school division utilized "flexible" staffing during the period of the study. This division experienced a loss in music enrollment. Another large division developed an innovative music appreciation class for secondary students and added a string program. This division experienced growth in music enrollment.

The results of this study suggest a dichotomy between expressed support for the arts and the position of the arts in the curriculum. While support was advocated by national reform reports, the general public, administrators and guidance counselors, secondary school music enrollments continued to drop in Virginia between 1979-88. An additional finding was a lack of music enrollment data within and among school divisions.