Studying for a standardized test can be dull, not to mention, very difficult. For high school students in New York City, the ultimate standardized tests are the Regents exams. How hard are these test? To give you an idea, here’s a sample question from this test goes something like this:
“Which idea did the founding fathers include in the Constitution that allows Congress to meet the needs of a changing society? 1. Federalism. 2. Separation of Powers. 3. The Elastic Clause. 4. States’ Rights.”
Pretty hard, right? So how should students prepare themselves for this test? They could pour over textbooks for endless hours, or they could sit with some their classmates and rap.
A new program called Fresh Prep is allowing students to do just that. Founded by the Urban Arts Partnership, Fresh Prep is attempting to help students pass the test so that they can graduate high school.
However, the students will have a hard time passing the test if they can’t understand the questions. Therefore, Fresh Prep “translates” the questions into a language that the students can understand.
“Linguistically, as far as the communities I work in, there is certainly bias toward them in these tests,” said Jamel Mims, an instructor for the program, who also goes by his rap name, M.C. Tingbudong. “It’s an effort to bridge the engagement gap.”
Fresh Prep is using rap music to help students learn because the rhyming and lyric-intensive art-form helps students memorize facts. However, it can still be difficult for those students who do not speak English as their first language.
“It’s difficult,” said Yurinda Acevedo, a recent immigrant from the Dominican Republic who is participating in the Fresh Prep program. “The English is not a piece of cake.”
Luckily, the program really is working for some students. Wilny Estrella did not pass the Regents test in June 2010. Now, it seems that she has changed her tune: “I wasn’t good at history, but in the days I have been [in Fresh Prep], I have learned a lot.”
Saulio Tuero is a bilingual social studies teacher who helps with the program. Tuero feels that Fresh Prep will help students in more than one area:
“I’m not that worried about getting them to pass this test eventually,” he said. “But the one thing they don’t get enough of is English. [For them to read and understand the rap lyrics] is like a major advancement.”
Via The New York Times