Sesame Street, public television's McLuhanesque children's hour, has been on the air one year. From the beginning, its aim was to sharpen kids' cognitive skills. The target age was from three to five, the ideal target group, the culturally deprived. Inundated by enthusiastic mail and ecstatic reviews, Sesame Street became an indisputable hit. But does a "switched-on" classroom educate or merely entertain? To measure the results of the series, the Children's Television Workshop commissioned a nationwide study by the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J. The report card has just come in, and Sesame Street has earned straight A's.
ETS examined a group of 943 children, most from poor backgrounds, in five states. Those disadvantaged children who watched infrequently showed a general knowledge gain of 9%. Young viewers who saw two or three shows a week jumped to 15%. Four or five times a week meant a 19% increase and those who saw it more than five times weekly improved 24%.
The lower the age group, the better the show did, scoring its highest gains with three-year-olds. Says Joan Ganz Cooney, Workshop president: "We placed our bets and we won. I hope that the word keeps spreading to mothers in the inner city. The study has vindicated TVit can teach, and teach well."