CARLSBAD, Calif., March 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Heralding the commitment to music education, the NAMM Foundation designated 307 school districts across the country as Best Communities for Music Education in a record-breaking year for participation. In addition to the Best Community districts, 66 individual schools earned the 2013 SupportMusic Merit Award for providing students with access to comprehensive music education. The Best Communities designation recognizes collaborative, from-the-ground-up efforts of teachers, administrators, students and parents who continually work to keep comprehensive music education as an integral part of the core curriculum. This year, nearly 2000 schools and school districts participated in the survey - an increase of 366% from 2012, resulting in a record number of designations. This year's increase in survey participation is an indication of growing support from both parents and administrators who recognize the vital role that music learning plays in student achievement. According to NAMM Foundation Executive Director Mary Luehrsen, the Best Communities for Music Education program is the bellwether of rising endorsement for this vital cause. "There is overwhelming research tying music education to higher overall student success in school and in life," she said. "This designation recognizes communities for their commitment to music education and strengthens support for these programs. Having widely embraced the evidence indicating that music education yields great things in schools and communities, people are increasingly affirmative, advocating for school music curricula, and championing programs like Best Communities that recognize this commitment to music education." Now in its 14 th year, the BCME program requires each school and district to detail funding, staffing, commitment to standards, and access to music instruction. Responses are meticulously reviewed by researchers at The Institute for Educational Research and Public Service of Lawrence, Kansas (an affiliate of the University of Kansas) and the NAMM Foundation to calculate the designated districts and awarded schools. As school districts across the United States finalize 2013-2014 budgets, the announcement of this year's Best Communities for Music Education designees focuses attention on the importance of keeping music education part of school's core education. Past designees report that receiving a BCME designation significantly improved their ability to preserve their schools' music education programs. "It's because of the Best Communities for Music Education designation that our music programs have been able to withstand dramatic school aid cuts," said Kim Lowenborg-Coyne, Ph.D, Director of Music and Arts of North Babylon Union Free School District in New York. "After we received this designation in 2006, Senator Owen Johnson awarded the district a $70,000 grant for the purchase of new music textbooks and development programs for our music teachers and staff. The NAMM Foundation has kept the music playing in North Babylon and other small towns like us across America." The BCME program is a significant tool in the NAMM Foundation's advocacy efforts on behalf of school-based music education. Numerous studies have demonstrated that learning to play music can boost student achievement and contributes to a school and district's goals for success for all students. Also, a school music program is an instructional bargain; a NAMM-funded Cost of Music Education study found that a comprehensive K-through-12 music education program costs an average of only $187 per student per year. "The designation reveals the elements of music programs so educators, administrators, teachers and students can see what they have, what they need, what they have accomplished, and what work needs to be done to strengthen their music education now and for the future," Luehrsen said.