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Research Suggests Music Ed May Positively Effect Academic Achievement and Executive Functions

Early results of an independent study indicate that students enrolled in Play On, Philly! (POP) exhibit better performance on tasks of executive functions, higher levels of academic achievement, and higher rates of school attendance than students not involved in the program. 

When compared to a control group of non-POP students at the same school, POP students:

·      Scored on average 10 points higher on standardized tests

·      Received higher grades in English and Language Arts and larger, more positive changes in math from the first to the third trimester

·      Scored higher on tests of Executive Functions

·      Had 30% fewer absences from school than non-POP students.

Play On, Philly! is based on the El Sistema model of music education that uses intensive music study to develop the whole child and push him to achieve more, take on challenges, and avoid the pitfalls often associated with poverty (over one-third of children in Philadelphia live below the poverty level).  Previous research has  shown that poverty is associated with lower executive functioning skills. 

Executive functions are a set of cognitive processes that allow an individual to organize his thoughts towards the achievement of goals.  The three most-commonly cited components of executive functions are working memory, behavioral inhibition and selective attention.

According to Play On, Philly! Founder and Artistic Director, Stanford Thompson, the study was undertaken to document whether better performance on tasks of executive functions is associated with intensive music education (which highlights practice, goal setting, delayed gratification and self-control). The study, conducted by Dr. Steven Holochwost of WolfBrown, compares students in Play On, Philly!’s West Philadelphia site (St. Francis de Sales School) with a control group.  The study is on-going.

These early results suggest that music education may mitigate the effects of risk on executive functions and academic achievement.  Nearly every program that works with children at risk claims ancillary benefits, but, few can substantiate these claims and fewer still can articulate how their programs may achieve these results.  In this respect, Play On, Philly! is unique, and why it is a leader in the field of El Sistema programs.

To learn more about Play On, Philly! visit www.playonphilly.org.  To learn more about the WolfBrown evaluation please contact Ilene Miller at Ilene@playonphilly.org, 215-875-4259 . For further information about WolfBrown visit www.wolfbrown.com.


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