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Hitting a High Note: String and Orchestra Ed. On the Rise

If you're tired of hearing bad news about the state of arts education amid budget cuts and pressure on schools to focus most of their energy on boosting test scores in subjects like reading and math, a recent analysis about string and orchestra programs may, well, strike a chord.

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It finds that significantly more public schools are offering programs to teach kids how to play stringed instruments these days. Twenty-nine percent of public school districts in the nation offered string programs in 2009, compared with 18 percent in 1997, says the white paper by the National String Project Consortium.

Also, although the white paper does identify a shortage of string teachers, with 3,000 needed by 2013, that's smaller than the 5,000 teacher shortage by 2005 that was identified in an earlier study.

"The bad news is that the United States is still facing a shortage of string teachers," Robert Jesselson, the executive director of the National String Project Consortium, writes in an introduction to the paper. "But the good news is that this shortage has decreased in the last eight years, even while the percentage of school districts with string programs has increased."

The paper, "Wanted: 3,000 String Teachers! The Status of String and Orchestra Programs in United States Schools," draws on research conducted by Michael L. Alexander, an associate professor of string music education at Baylor University and Bret P. Smith, an assistant professor of music education at Central Washington University.

Of course, not all of the news from the research is hopeful. Between 2003 and 2008, financial support from school districts for string education decreased in 66 percent of programs, the white paper says.

These are just a few highlights. For those looking for far more information, check out the white paper for yourself.

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