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EDITORIAL: When it comes to music, keep it up, Colonie

It’s always nice to see positive news coming out of public schools, especially in an era of spending cuts and artificial standardized testing emergencies.

We bring you news this week of not one, but two, distinctions for schools in Colonie. Both the North and South Colonie school districts were named among the best school districts in the country at which to receive a musical education by the National Association of Music Merchants.

That’s not some token plaque, either. The organization selected 307 communities this year after receiving more than 2,000 applications. You can read all the details in reporter Zan Strumfeld’s story on page 3.

What she found was participation in music programs is high in both districts. More than 80 percent of middle schoolers at South Colonie are in some way involved in the music department, and at North Colonie more than a quarter of high schoolers are participating.

This is undeniably a good thing. College Board statistics reveal students who have a solid dose of arts education perform better on the SAT. A study conducted by Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching found students who regularly participate in the arts are four times more likely to win an award for an essay or poem, and are three times more likely to win an award for school attendance when compared to their peers.

The causality is certainly open to interpretation here – was it the music education or the egg? – but what’s for sure is having a robust arts program isn’t hurting anyone. To the contrary, it offers opportunities for growth and social involvement many, many students would not otherwise be privy to. Much along the same lines as athletics.

What we have seen in large part during the last few years of budget slashing is that music and arts programs have, for the most part, not been cut too deeply in suburban districts. Much like athletics, there have been some small reductions but nothing that involves the wholesale dismantling of a program. But it’s far more likely this is due to the relatively little money sitting in these programs to begin with than some philosophy on the part of administrators.

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