1995 Ohio Study Finds Elementary
Pull-Out Instrumental Lessons Do Not
Harm Students' Academic Achievement
"Pull-outs have become almost a nightmare for many elementary
school principals, who view the practice as a kind of pernicious
anemia that attacks whole-class instruction time. Once pull-outs
take hold in a school, there appears to be no end to them, and no
way to rid the instructional program of their debilitating impact."
- From "Pull-outs: How much do they erode whole-class
teaching?" by F. English, appearing in Principal, May 1984, p. 32.
Many school instrumental music programs remove students from a
regular classroom for individual or small-group instrumental
instruction. Often, this practice causes tension among teachers and
administrators. Many of those opposed to pull-out lessons are
concerned that students will fall behind in their academic
performance by missing classroom instruction time. In the study
described below, the test scores of students who leave their
classroom for thirty-minute string instrument lessons twice each
week are compared to the scores of students who remain in the
The authors studied the 1995 results of the Ohio Proficiency Test
(OPT) given to fourth-grade students in Hamilton, Ohio. To make
the comparison between string and non-string students as fair as
possible, the researchers looked at students' scores on a previous
standardized test, the Cognitive Abilities Test, or COGAT. Each
of the 148 fourth-grade string students was matched to a non-string
student who achieved the same verbal score on the COGAT. This
made a total of 296 students whose scores on the Ohio Proficiency
Test were analyzed, and the academic abilities of the non-string
students selected for the study matched the academic abilities of
the string students as closely as possible.
Listed below are the mean (average) Ohio Proficiency Test scores
for the students in this study:
String Students: 5.05
Non-String Students: 4.85
String Students: 229.5
Non-String Students: 223.2
String Students: 214.8
Non-String Students: 211.8
CITIZENSHIP (Social Studies)
String Students: 231.3
Non-String Students: 224.8
Listed below are the percentages of students in this study achieving
test scores at or above standard performance. The standard for the
1995 Ohio Proficiency Test is 4.0 in reading and 200 in all other
String students: 85%
Non-string students: 85%
String students: 89%
Non-string students: 87%
String students: 76%
Non-string students: 65%
String students: 93%
Non-string students: 87%
String students: 68%
Non-string students: 58%
From the results of this study we can conclude that the string
students did not suffer negative academic effects when compared
to students of similar academic capability who remained in the
classroom. We can also conclude that the overall Ohio
Proficiency Test performance of the students who participated in
string pull-out lessons was better than the performance of the
students of similar ability who did not participate in the string
The results of this study seem to indicate that students who study
instruments in a small-group or individual setting actually improve
their academic abilities, however this study was not designed to
document improvement, and further study is needed before
drawing this conclusion.
The author of the Ohio report offers this analysis of what takes place
during pull-out string instruction:
"When string students are excused from their classrooms for string
class, they are not leaving instruction. They are moving to another
classroom in a different area of the building. The concepts taught
in string [lessons] go far beyond pitch and rhythm. For example, a
student must understand fractions and their relationships to each
other in order to manipulate rhythm. The student who has trouble
understanding the abstract concept that a half is twice one quarter
may comprehend the concrete example of his or her bow moving
twice as far on half notes as quarter notes. The musician reads
abstract concepts from the page and then translates them into
concrete phenomena that involve time and space."
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