UIUC Music Test Files

An article to accompany the Winter 2017 edition of Sonorities.

by Richard Colwell, Professor Emeritus of Music Education

In wondering about the competence of my high school students, I was inspired by the Aliferis College Entrance Examination (1947-1954), a music test temporarily required by NASM to improve the quality of schools of music.

Context at Illinois

Excellent cooperation existed on campus between the College of Education and the School of Music. Arthur Bestor in history (along with Admiral Rickover) criticized colleges of education despite excellence at UIUC. The College of Education reduced enrollment in elementary education by 2/3 to improve quality. Charles Leonhard, fresh from Teachers College, began to build a nationally known graduate program in music education using performance and theory tests along with the Miller Analogies for quality control.

I was funded by education to visit places like New York City and Boston to gather tests used in music teacher certification. Behaviorism dominated education thinking from 1920-1960, a period active in music testing following the definitive work of Carl Seashore.

With the passage of the National Defense Act in 1958, quality became the watchword in education. Discipline scholars in physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology became involved in the reform movement with UIUC’s Max Beberman writing the curriculum in “new math”. Former School of Music Faculty member Claude Palisca headed up a group of discipline-based (musicology) music scholars with interest in public school music curricula resulting in the Juilliard Repertory Project. Palisca’s critical Yale Report set the agenda for music education for decades.

The College of Education had top researchers in educational psychology and testing, each a national authority, to include Lee Cronbach, Gene Glass, Norman Gronlund, Ernie House, Barak Rosenshine, Bob Stake, and Ann Brown along with faculty interested in music: Harry Broudy, Foster McMurray, and later Liora Bresler. The emphasis on behaviorism favored assessment and banks of educational objectives.

To establish a respected doctoral program, Leonhard rejected dissertation topics like annotative bibliographies and revised curricula for small colleges. Dissertations had to have national significance— think of early graduates Robert Watkins, Bennett Reimer, Marilyn Pflederer-Zimmerman, and Eunice Boardman. Conducting valid experimental work required excellent music tests that had a previous track record in dissertations or the U.S. funded projects that began in the 1960s. UIUC was involved with the national arts research lab, CEMREL that required assessments and knowledge of extant assessments. Two UIUC doctoral graduates, Roger Edwards and Robert Miller headed the assessment division at CEMREL, competencies gained in Urbana. Leonhard was on the committee to establish the Comprehensive Music Project with UIUC one of the pilot centers. Assessment was a requirement of all funded research designed to answer the national question about quality in education. The critical question was what was known about learning in music education and in the preparation of music teachers---information that existed only through assessment. Directors of the School of Music realized the importance of “hard” data and supported our passionate search for every known music test that measured what students and teachers were able to know and do. The test files were built to “stand on the shoulders of giants of the past”.