Brown scholar partners with R.I. educators, musicians to study music’s effect on equity in schools

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Kenneth Wong, an education scholar at Brown, will assess whether a longstanding music enrichment program in Pawtucket is helping to close opportunity and education achievement gaps for low-income students of color.

Could an after-school music enrichment program help close opportunity and achievement gaps among K-12 students in Rhode Island? An education scholar at Brown University is partnering with a local school district and orchestra to find out.

Kenneth Wong, a professor of education policy at Brown, is set to collaborate with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School and the Pawtucket School Department to analyze the impact of Victoria’s Dream Project, a philharmonic-run after-school program that teaches third, fourth and fifth graders how to play string instruments. Since 2012, the program has provided rigorous after-school instrumental music learning and academic support to students at Pawtucket’s Agnes Little Elementary School, where 80% of students come from low-income households and more than 50% are students of color.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Papitto Opportunity Connection, the program is poised to expand to a second Pawtucket elementary school — and Wong is prepared to document its impact through a study. The study, Wong said, will track the musical, academic and social-emotional growth of participating students over the course of four years, using survey data from students, parents and teachers, and analyzing budgets and program designs.


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