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A musical experiment’s Regents results show promise

Last week, I wrote about a test prep program at New Design High School that aimed to boost Regents exam scores through original hip-hop songs.

So did it work? According to the school’s unofficial results on the three exams the program prepared students to take this year, the answer is a qualified yes.

Scores jumped on the English and U.S. history exams. Nearly twice the number of special education students passed the American history test, and the number of current or former English language learners who passed the exam nearly tripled. But students didn’t fare so well on their Global History exams, which are typically taken in tenth grade.

Using the songs alone is not enough, said Philip Courtney, the head of Urban Arts, the nonprofit that developed the hip-hop program, called FreshPrep. Courtney said the results point to a need for better teacher training about how to integrate the competitive games that are part of the program, not just the music. Teachers who worked all parts of the hip-hop program into their test prep posted the best results, he said, giving as an example Laura Rubin, whose American history class I visited. Nearly three-quarters of Rubin’s students passed the U.S. History Regents exam.

Urban Arts is revamping the program before rolling it out in six new schools next year. This summer, the group will test out a hip-hop curriculum to help students prepare for the Integrated Algebra exam.