05/20/2009

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A Denver school’s “Rap to Roots” program … the rest of the story Last week, the top, front-page headline of the Denver Post read “Rhythm Scholars: Rap helps kids boost their academics—from multiplication to Shakespeare.” The story described an afterschool “Rap to Roots” program at the Wyatt-Edison Charter School in Denver’s inner-city Five Points neighborhood. The Post reported that the program “debuted this month in Colorado after success in cities such as Cleveland and Chicago." In a nutshell, the program aims to boost kids’ academic achievement by using rap music to motivate students to stay in school and to teach them about literary conventions, technology, and African-American history. The article reported that the program “did significantly better in standardized testing, attention spans in the classroom, and some [students] improved their writing skills.” The story got noticed both in and outside Denver. Colleen O’Connell, the Post reporter who wrote the article, said that a national TV news network contacted her, expressing interest in covering the story. The next day, ASCD Smart Brief picked up the story and blasted it out to 175,000 readers. And within hours of the article being posted on the Post Web site, more than 80 comments had been posted, ranging from favorable support to equating the use of rap in schools with the demise of Western civilization. My first reaction to the story was mixed. On the one hand, I could appreciate what the program was trying to do: offer urban kids an opportunity to express themselves creatively, motivate them, and provide them with a positive way to spend after-school...

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