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Group Brings Songwriting Workshops Into Schools



From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report. Kid Pan Alley is a nonprofit organization that holds songwriting workshops for students across the United States. The organization recently visited a school in the Anacostia area of Washington, DC.

The children presented a concert with the help of songwriter and recording artist Paul Reisler. He established Kid Pan Alley in 1999 and has worked with more than 35,000 students and produced more than 2,200 songs since that time. He says the power of music can teach children skills they might not learn in school. He believes the American educational system is focused too much on standardized tests to measure success. But Paul Reisler says we now live in a creative economy. He says his group is trying to inspire children to be creative.

At Orr Elementary School in Anacostia, 95 percent of students come from poor families. Marlon Ray is the school's dean of students. He says some of the children have difficult lives. But, he says, these kids still want to strive for greatness.

Jhonna Turner is director of programs at the school. She says the fourth- and fifth-grade students are often focused on more than school. They can be important helpers for their families. They make sure food is ready when they come home and do other tasks. Yet students are often influenced by what happens around them. A shooting took place in April directly in front of the school.

Although no one was injured, the event affected the whole community. Still, Orr Elementary School has a positive, hopeful atmosphere. Marlon Ray says the workshop and concert made possible by Kid Pan Alley created good memories that will last for years.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman.