A Contemporary Examination of Charter School Music Teachers:  A New Context for Music Teaching and Learning


Karen M. Koner, California State University, Stanislaus


Wendy K. Matthews, Wayne State University



Since their inception in 1991, charter schools have gained popularity in the United Sates and have been seen as a viable progressive alternative to a traditional public school education. However, there is debate as to the substance, rigor, and overall experiences of charter school education. In 2008, Austin & Russell found charter schools have a lower percentage of music instruction and credentialed music instructors than public schools. More recently, it was noted that 86% of charter school leaders (e.g. principals, CEOs) in New York City reported offering formalized music programs with choirs being the most frequently reported (Elpus, 2012). Additionally, a comparison study of Chicago pubic and charter schools reported charter schools offered more music programs than their public school counterparts, however, both school types offered significantly less music than the national average (Kelly & Demorest, 2016). Our study furthers this investigation into music education in charters schools through the lens of contemporary teachers’ voices, listening to their current views and experiences, and gathering data from these professionals working in this setting to provide a better understanding of their training and teaching context. Specifically, the intent of the present study was to examine the current trends of K – 12 music educators in charter schools throughout the United States regarding their (a) professional background, (b) classroom teaching responsibilities, and (c) job satisfaction.


This study draws 136 participants teaching at charter schools from a larger study of currently employed music teachers who were members of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) during the 2015 – 2016 academic year, who responded to a researcher created survey (Matthews & Koner, 2017). Results indicate that overall, K – 12 music educators employed in charter schools were predominately Caucasian (87.9%), have been teaching less than five years (71.8%), and range in age between 20-70 years old, with 62.5% indicating they were under the age of 35. Only 6.5% indicated they were tenured. Of these teachers, 97.5% held teaching certifications and instructed an average of 301-400 students a day. Charter school teachers in the study indicated they participate in a variety of professional development activities to enhance their classroom teaching: 35.7% have earned a Master of Music degree and 75.3% attend professional conferences. On average, participants state they are satisfied to very satisfied with their current teaching positions, with 84.7% stating they would choose the music education profession again.


This project supports the ASPA of Music Teacher Educators: Identification, Preparation and Professional Development and the 2017 Symposium conference theme Imagining Possible Futures by reflecting the views of our participants and contribute to the description of the work environment and satisfaction of teachers within charter schools. At this time of critical transformation in K-12 education, the results of this study can help teacher educators understand this new context for music teaching and learning music instruction at charter schools to assist with curricular offerings, advocacy, and design of professional development programs.




Austin J. R., Russell J. A. (2008). Charter schools: Embracing or excluding the arts? In Thompson L. K., Campbell M. R. (Eds.), Diverse methodologies in the study of music teaching and learning (pp. 163–182). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

Matthews, W. K. & Koner, K. (accepted for publication 2017). A Survey of Elementary and Secondary Music Educators’ professional background, teaching responsibilities and job satisfaction in the United States. Research and Issues in Music Education.

Elpus, K. (2012). Music education and school choice reform: Music programs in New York City charter schools. In L. K. Thompson, M. R. Campbell, L. K. Thompson, M. R. Campbell (Eds.), Situating inquiry: Expanded venues for music education research (pp. 79-98). Charlotte, NC, US: IAP Information Age Publishing.

Kelley, J., & Demorest, S. M. (2016). Music programs in charter and traditional schools: A comparative study of Chicago elementary schools. Journal of Research in Music Education, 64(1), 88-107. doi:10.1177/0022429416630282