The California Music Project Teacher Training Program as an Intervention in Poverty and Income Inequality


Kara E. Ireland D’Ambrosio, Woodside School & San Jose State University


The California Music Project Teacher Training Program (CMP) was designed to: 1) address inequities of music education in high poverty schools, 2) support music teachers so they remained in those schools, and 3) encourage preservice music teachers to build personal and professional capacity for work in under-resourced school environments (D. M. Hollinger, personal communication, September 21, 2011). In this presentation, I will situate CMP in a body of research on interventions in poverty and income inequality designed to stabilize school operations, including teaching, and improve children’s educational attainment (cf. Duncan & Murnane, 2011; Jacob & Ludwig, 2009). Thus, I will examine the extent to which CMP, as an intervention, has stabilized music programs and music teaching specifically at its San Jose site. I address the following questions in this presentation:


1. What are the indirect impacts of income inequality on the CMP schools, music programs, and mentor-teachers?
2. Which impacts appear to be ameliorated by placement of a fellow (preservice teacher) into the music program?

3. What are the relationships between having a fellowship and learning to teach in an under-resourced school?
4. To what extent does the fellowship influence fellows’ decisions about pursuing post-baccalaureate teacher licensure and eventual employment?


I draw my data on CMP from interviews of a broad cross-section of mentors (veteran teachers) and fellows (preservice teachers) associated with the San Jose site of CMP between 2006 and 2013, as well as field notes from observation of the 2012-2013 mentor-fellow pairs. My discussion in this session will focus on the systematic impacts of California’s low overall spending per pupil (National Highlights Report, 2014), as well as state mandates to provide remedial instruction, particularly for English Language Learners (cf. Schwartz & Stiefel, 2011).


I will present findings including that, due to budgetary pressures from remedial programs, there were few funds available for music programs, and due to large numbers of students who need remedial instruction in CMP schools, overall music enrollment remained low. However, music class sizes remained large to accommodate school-wide needs for small-size remedial classes. Similar to Abril and Gault (2008), CMP mentor teachers at the poorest schools were least able to offer a variety of music classes. Most mentor teachers were unaware of policy constraints, so they blamed the stress they experienced on unsupportive administrators. Fellows provided help for large classes and sometimes helped ease a mentor teacher’s sense of isolation. Although most of the fellows were open to the idea of working in an under-resourced school, several lacked basic information about the CMP schools into which they were placed. I will also discuss implications from this case study including: 1) developing a broader context for preservice and inservice music teachers’ professional development, particularly in terms of the potential impacts of poverty and income inequality and 2) developing research that compares administrators’ and music teachers’ perceptions of the need for comprehensive music instruction in poor schools. I view this research as aligned with the overall conference themes of equity and inclusion, as well as with Music Teacher Socialization, Teacher Retention, and Professional Development for the Experienced Teacher ASPAs.




Abril, C. R., & Gault, B. M. (2008). The state of music in secondary schools: The principal’s perspective. Journal of Research in Music Education, 56, 68–81.

Duncan, G. J., & Murnane, R. J. (2011). Whither opportunity? Rising inequality, schools, and children’s life chances: Russell Sage.

Jacob, B. A., & Ludwig, J. (2009). Improving educational outcomes for poor children. In M. Cancian, & S. Danziger (Ed.), Changing poverty, changing policies (pp. 266–300). New York, NY: Russell Sage.

National Highlights Report. (2014). District disruption and revival: School systems reshape to compete and improve. Education Week’s Quality Counts 2014.

Schwartz, A. E., & Stiefel, L. (2011). Immigrants and inequality in public schools. In G. J. Duncan & R. J. Murnane (Eds.), Whither opportunity? Rising inequality, schools, and children’s life chances (pp. 419–442). New York NY: Russell Sage.