Ron Kelley '06 uses rap music to teach students

Ron Kelley

Ron Kelley '06 ties hip hop music and education together, using his Edu-Rap CD to help students learn. Credit: Derrick Brown
Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: February 22, 2009

Using rap music to educate students about basic curriculum in an effort to improve standardized test scores is the creative concept of Ron Kelley ’06. The idea culminated from Ron’s two areas of expertise—music and education. He originally began his career in the music industry as owner of an independent record label, and after getting involved in education, worked his way from a teacher to a principal.

Ron, who earned his doctorate in public school administration from Texas A&M University, saw schools struggling to keep their standardized test scores high and noticed that many of the techniques they were using did not capture the students’ attention. So, as a principal in the South San Antonio Independent School District, Ron began experimenting with music in the classroom.

“I saw how successful hip hop was when I worked in the music industry, so I decided to tie hip hop and education together,” Ron says. “It was successful because I focused on positive and educational rap.”

Validation for the idea came when he gave a homemade CD to the music teacher at his school. Not only did students love the music, but teachers began using the CD as a learning tool, and ultimately, the students’ test scores improved. In his first year as a principal, his school earned Gold Performance Acknowledgements.

Ron’s CD project quickly became a professional endeavor. Renamed the Edu-Rap CD, it became available to schools across the state that were hoping to increase their test scores. In the Houston area, there were several 30-point jumps in Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) scores across the district.

The Edu-Rap CD contains a fun song for every subject covered in the TAKS test, and the song breaks down various components of the subject. Subjects range from reading and math to science and social studies.

“I realized I was onto something big,” Ron says. “Other principals would come to me requesting that I speak at their school. It was then that I began to improve student achievement full time.”

In 2005, Ron created his educational consulting company—Konfident Enterprises—traveling to schools across the nation sharing his teaching techniques. His first CD has maintained popularity since its release in 2005 and was one of the contenders on the Grammy Awards ballot. His  Edu-Rap Vol. II has been sold out since its release in November 2008.

While Ron has influenced the teaching styles used in many classrooms, he knows that his work is not done. His innovative techniques have improved test scores, and his music has been successful in transforming how teachers engage their students in the classroom. But, his vision extends beyond the classroom and campus.

“When I’m able to walk into a music store and see an educational music section is when I will know that I have made an impact on the education scene,” Ron says.