Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Ofelia García

Committee Members

Anthony Picciano

Stephen Blum

Gay Wilgus

Subject Categories

American Studies | Curriculum and Instruction | Early Childhood Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Elementary Education | Ethnomusicology | Music Education | Music Pedagogy | Teacher Education and Professional Development


charter schools, equity in arts education, early childhood music education, typology, discourse analysis, culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP), developmentally appropriate practice (DAP)


Over the past two decades, charter schools have become a hallmark of education reform in the United States. Concurrent with this movement is the increasing prominence of high stakes testing. While much research has sought to compare the effectiveness of charter schools and traditional public schools in terms of standardized assessments, scant attention has been paid to the role of arts and music in charter schools, and little has been done to distinguish the distinct strands of the charter school movement. Given what we know about the importance of music education and the growth of charter schools, it was the purpose of this research to provide a multi-level assessment of early childhood charter school music programs in New York City (NYC), a major hub of the charter school movement. On a macro level (district/citywide), this study compared access to music in charter schools and traditional public schools serving kindergarten through third grade (K-3), and examined how different socio-demographic factors were related to the presence of music instruction in both sets of schools. At the meso level (school), a typology of NYC charter schools was developed and refined by the researcher through discourse analysis of charter school mission statements. This typology was used to assess access to music between NYC charter schools, and in conjunction with micro level (teacher/classroom) analysis, which examined K-3 music programs available in different types of elementary charter schools. Qualitative analysis of interviews and observations was used to evaluate music teachers’ conceptualizations of the musical and pedagogical features of their practice in relation to the ideological orientation and discourse of the schools in which they work. Results indicated that charter schools and traditional public schools offered early childhood music programs at comparable rates, and that the prevalence of music was correlated with school size. However, when accounting for music instruction by non-certified school-based staff, traditional public schools were significantly more likely to provide K-3 music than their charter school counterparts. Whereas socioeconomic status and racial composition of the student body were related the presence of music in traditional public schools, no such correlations could be established for charter schools. The incidence of music instruction did, however, correlate with charter school type: charter schools that focused exclusively on core curriculum and character in their missions were significantly less likely to provide K-3 music. Charter school discourse also impacted classroom practice, as music teachers adopted the behavior codes of their respective schools. Music teachers found different ways to adapt diverse performance practices to classroom management and literacy goals.