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Kenneth Elpus
in press, Journal of Research in Music Education
Publication year: 2023


The purpose of this study was to examine the demographic characteristics and music achievement of eighth-grade students in the United States using evidence from the 2016 National Assessment of Educational Progress in the Arts (NAEP). Analyzing NAEP data from a nationally representative sample of 4,340 eighth-graders attending public and private middle schools in the United States in 2016, The author estimated enrollment percentages in various kinds of music classes and compared Music NAEP scores across various individual characteristics. Results showed that 64% of eighth-graders enrolled in a school music class, with 34% of eighth-graders enrolling in an ensemble class. Among ensemble students, there was underrepresentation of Black and Latinx students and underrepresentation of students of lower socioeconomic status. Students who were enrolled in general music and not an ensemble did not follow this pattern: Black and Latinx students and students of lower socioeconomic means were overrepresented among general music students. Controlling for contextual and demographic characteristics, ensemble music students significantly outscored nonmusic students on the Music NAEP, but students enrolled in general music as their only music course scored statistically indistinguishably from their nonmusic peers.