Thu, Mar

Could Music Account for California’s Rising Advanced Placement Scores?


WHEN EDUCATION HITS THE RIGHT NOTES--The number of kids across the state taking advanced placement exams is on the rise it was revealed in February. 28.5% of the state’s graduates achieved 3 out of 5 or better on their AP exams making California the 5th best state in the nation. This has also seen a 8% rise in results since 2006 according to Tom Torlakson, the Superintendent. What are the reasons for improved scores?  


Good Teachers, a Good Education System and Apt Pupils

The strength of the Californian system can be seen by the rising number of students across the board - 170,000 or 42.4% of students, taking AP exams. This includes all racial, ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds. Indeed, the percentage of students from low income backgrounds is steadily growing. Now 45.2% of low income students are taking AP exams and 41.2% of them are gaining at least 3 out of 5. 

California’s education system has often been criticised as a failing institution. Indeed, many have said it is dying a slow death while people across the nation criticize the education system as a whole as being underfunded and left to ruin. However, the system must be doing something right if advanced student numbers are growing. 

Rob Kuznia, writing in Pacific Standard Magazine, points to some innovative practices across the nation including California’s Rappin Mathematician, Alex Kajitani. His math classes work because he makes the subject relevant to kids, so they pay attention and learn to love the subject. It worked and their test scores have soared since. Teachers up and down the state are making the best out of poor resources, and are pulling their students up to greater levels of achievement.  

An Alternative Theory

Of course, while no one doubts the hard work and dedication of the state’s teachers, there’s always another theory. Recently published studies have shown an interesting correlation between what a student listens to and their SAT results. Could this account for their Advanced Placement exams too? 

A combination of academic papers and studies has combined a student’s favorite artists with their average SAT scores. This has produced some fun results. For example, liking Beethoven (1371), Radiohead (1220), Ben Folds (1218), and Bob Dylan (1197) is good. However, terrible results ensue if you are a fan of Aerosmith (987), Jay-Z (970), Beyonce (932), and especially Lil Wayne (889).  

How Music Can Actually Help

Naturally, not much stock is put in the results. People like different genres and different artists, and the studies fail to take into account differing socio-economic backgrounds which might determine results and music tastes. Music plays a more pivotal role in improving a student’s chances of doing well academically if they happen to play a musical instrument, especially a classical one. From the teachings of Dr. Suzuki of Japan onwards, and no doubt before too, playing an instrument as a child has been linked to discipline, rigor, and a better outlook on life as a whole. It is no surprise when you consider countries traditionally strong in subjects such as math and science also have high levels of musical learning. 


(Sally Collins is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.)