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Researchers at the University of California at Irvine suggest that music training may enhance the development of spatial-reasoning skills in very young children.

A team led by Frances H. Rauscher and Gordon L. Shaw of the university's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory studied a total of 10 3-year-old girls in an inner-city day-care school and a school for the arts. The children were administered the performance subtest of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Revised.

The children in the day-care center then received 30 minutes of group singing each day, while the children in the arts school received weekly 15-minute private keyboard lessons. Both groups were then retested after three months and six months of instruction.

The researchers found that both groups scored much better on one task of the intelligence test: object assembly. During the task, the children are asked to assemble such shapes as a flower or a dog.

The day-care children showed the most dramatic improvement. Before the music training, their average score on the object-assembly task was below the national average; their score nearly doubled after the training.

The researchers say their new findings could support the role of music in the elementary school curriculum.

"Unfortunately, in some schools, music is viewed as an extracurricular activity at best,'' Dr. Rauscher said. "Our research has the potential to greatly enhance school administrators' perceptions of music's importance in the curriculum.''

A second phase of the study, beginning this month, will involve a much larger group of students as well as a control group that will receive no music training.

The National Association of Music Merchants is funding the research.


A new book contends that the academic success of Catholic high schools can be replicated at other private schools and public ones as well if they adopt certain principles of Catholic education.

The book, Catholic Schools and the Common Good, summarizes 10 years of research by Anthony Bryk and his colleagues at the University of Chicago.

The researchers examined various types of Catholic high schools as well as data on academic achievement.

The authors conclude that Catholic schools succeed because they share four characteristics: a common core of acdemic work for all students; a supportive, communal style of organization; decentralized governance; and an inspirational ideology.

Harvard University Press published the book.--G.B.

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