Music Educators and Policy: An Examination of Knowledge, Engagement, Trust, and Efficacy


Christopher Dye, Middle Tennessee State University

Lauren Kapalka Richerme, Indiana University


Research suggests that Americans who are white, older, and hold college degrees participate in politics, including voting and practices such as contacting elected officials, at higher rates (Census Bureau, 2013; Census Bureau, 2014; Smith, Scholozman, Verba, & Brady, 2009). Researchers also note a precipitous fall in Americans’ trust in the federal government between 1958 (73%) and 2010 (22%), although government satisfaction remains higher at the state (38% satisfied) and local (62% satisfied) levels (Pew Research Center, 2010). The relationship between attitudes towards government and political participation may be mediated by political efficacy (Kahne & Westheimer, 2006).


Examining K-12 educators, Verba, Burns, and Schlozman (1997) found substantial interest in but limited knowledge of politics, and Hammon (2010) asserted that older teachers and male teachers expressed higher levels of political efficacy. Despite attention to trust between teachers, parents, and principals (e.g. Adams & Christenson, 2000; Goddard, Tschannen-Moran, & Hoy, 2001; Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 1999; Kursunoglu, 2009; Louis, 2007; Tarter & Hoy, 1988; Wahlstrom & Louis, 2008), few have examined teachers’ trust in local, state, and federal government officials. Similarly, while authors have investigated and theorized about how music educators interface with education and music education policies and posited the role that policy might play in preservice music teacher education (e.g. Abril & Bannerman, 2015; Burton, Knaster, & Knieste, in press; Elpus, 2013; Gerrity, 1997; Jones, 2009; Kos, 2010; NASM, 2013; Schmidt, 2009; Woodford, 2005), policy knowledge, political participation, and political efficacy remain relatively rare topics in K-12 education literature and music education literature.


Five questions guided this study: How familiar are music educators with local and national education and music education policies? How politically active are music educators? To what extent do music educators trust policymakers and leaders? What do music educators believe about their own political efficacy? What relationships exist between political constructs, demographic variables, and employment characteristics?


The Internet survey focused on the four constructs from the research questions (Aguilar & Richerme, in press; American National Elections Studies, 2013; Verba, Schlozman, Brady, & Nie, 1990). A multistage sampling methodology was employed, systematically sampling 500 K-12 public school teachers from a comprehensive statewide listing of music teachers stratified by county, district, grade level, and area of music education specialization. A representative sample was obtained in terms of geography, urbanicity, school socioeconomics, and music teaching areas. 143 usable responses were received.


Results indicate that awareness of policies varies widely between music

teachers, with no higher awareness for federal or state level issues. Music teachers are overwhelmingly likely to be registered to vote (97%) and regularly do vote, particularly in presidential elections. Older teachers are significantly more likely to make direct contact with political offices. Respondents perceive higher levels of internal political efficacy than external, and efficacy was highest at the local level. Analysis of trust in government revealed a pattern wherein local officials are most trusted, followed by the federal level; the least trusted are state-level actors, with the exception of the state’s chief school officer, who was more trusted than all other surveyed groups/individuals. Neither teacher gender nor age are significantly related to awareness, efficacy, or trust in government, and there are no significant relationships between teaching variables and trust in government, participation, or awareness. However, findings indicated small significant negative correlations (r = .291 and r = .269, p < .001) between efficacy and both county urbanicity and the proportion of non-White students in the district. In other words, teachers in more urban schools and those with more diverse student populations reported feeling less politically efficacious. Implications for the inclusion of policy in preservice music education curricula are considered.




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