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Sesame Street Revisited

Sesame Street Revisited

Thomas D. Cook
Hilary Appleton
Ross F. Conner
Ann Shaffer
Gary Tamkin
Stephen J. Weber
Copyright Date: 1975
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 428
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  • Book Info
    Sesame Street Revisited
    Book Description:

    In the course of its television lifetime, "Sesame Street" has taught alphabet-related skills to hundreds of thousands of preschool children. But the program may have attracted more of its regular viewers from relatively affluent homes in which the parents were better educated.

    Analyzing and reevaluating data drawn from several sources, principally the Educational Testing Service's evaluations of "Sesame Street," the authors of this book open fresh lines of inquiry into how much economically disadvantaged childrenlearned from viewing the series for six months and into whether the program is widening the gap that separates the academic achievement of disadvantaged preschoolers from that of their more affluent counterparts. The authors define as acute dilemma currently facing educational policymakers: what positive results are achieved when a large number of children learn some skills at a younger age if this absolute increase in knowledge is associated with an increase in the difference between social groups?

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-827-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    Howard E. Freeman

    I took the draft of this book by Thomas Cook and his associates with me to Mexico City, where I was on leave from Brandeis University and Russell Sage Foundation. The initial preparation of this Foreword took place during my first months there. In thinking about what to write, I found myself coming back to two experiences I had during this brief period: One was my own, trying to learn a new language; the second was as an involved observer, watching a young girl from the Mexican countryside, who had never worked outside her own home, become a maid.


  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Thomas Cook
  5. Chapter 1 Objectives and a Summary of the Major Findings
    (pp. 1-26)

    The major purpose of this report is to present a case study of evaluation research that might be useful in the training of future evaluation researchers. Every society needs systematic feedback about the effects of its institutions or social programs, be they old or new. Most feedback today is in the form of personal testimony, which often comes from an unsystematic sample of persons who have an interest in the institution or program being evaluated. When this type of feedback occurs, it is often difficult to disentangle the effects of a program from the idiosyncracies of the parties giving the...

  6. Chapter 2 The General Objectives of “Sesame Street” and of Our Evaluation
    (pp. 27-44)

    “Sesame Street” is a television series aimed at entertaining and teaching children aged three to five, with special emphasis on four-year-olds. The program is produced by the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW), a nonprofit organization that was created in March 1968. The prime mover of the workshop and its current president is Joan Ganz Cooney, whose media experience was gained as a public affairs producer on Channel 13 in New York. She is largely responsible for the original idea of “Sesame Street” and for the specification of its objectives.

    Each “Sesame Street” program is fast-moving and action-packed, and it portrays humans...

  7. Chapter 3 Formative and Summative Evaluation Research in the Context of “Sesame Street”
    (pp. 45-62)

    The Children’s Television Workshop makes use of two kinds of research: formative and summative. Bloom, Hastings, and Madaus have characterized the difference between these kinds of research in terms of theirpurpose, timing,and level ofgeneralizability.

    Formative research is used in education to determine whether a particular skill has been acquired and, if it has not, to examine the sub-processes necessary for learning the skill. Once these sub-processes are known, it is possible to modify teaching so that the skills can be learned and a curriculum developed. Summative research, on the other hand, “is directed towards a much more...

  8. Chapter 4 Preliminary Descriptive Analyses of the First-Year ETS Data
    (pp. 63-106)

    The purpose of this chapter is to illustrate how descriptive analyses of the first-year ETS evaluation can be used (1) for establishing a list of independent, moderator, and dependent variables that will help answer the questions we have raised; and (2) for describing these variables so that we can assess whether there are pitfalls in the data because of confounded relationships among independent variables, non-normal distributions of moderator or dependent variables, or inadequate fits between operationalizations and their referent constructs.

    Some terms have to be defined before we can proceed to this task. We use the termtrue experimentto...

  9. Chapter 5 The Effects of Encouragement-and-Viewing in the First-Year Evaluation
    (pp. 107-154)

    We have previously commented upon three advantages of treating the ETS data as coming from a randomized experiment with encouragement-to-view as the experimental treatment. The first advantage is that random assignment to conditions should make the encouraged and nonencouraged groups equivalent on the average at the pretest, thereby avoiding the threats to internal validity which arise when analyzing the performance of nonequivalent groups which receive different treatments. The second advantage is that powerful and accepted statistical tests exist for the analysis of randomized experiments whereas this is not always the case with quasi-experiments, especially when comparing the differences in pretest-posttest...

  10. Chapter 6 The Effects of Encouragement-and-Viewing in the Second Season of “Sesame Street”
    (pp. 155-192)

    The second-year evaluation was very much like the first with some important exceptions. As in the first year, children were randomly assigned to treatments where they were or were not encouraged to view the program. Also, a battery of learning tests was given to children before and after the program, and the majority of the tests were simple cognitive ones with the same names as the measures used in the first year. Moreover, the children came from poor neighborhoods in Winston-Salem and Los Angeles, and both boys and girls between three and five years old were included. And as in...

  11. Chapter 7 The Effects of Viewing “Sesame Street” Without Encouragement-to-View
    (pp. 193-266)

    The ETS evaluations were designed to test whether encouragement-to-view teaches. They were not designed to test whether “Sesame Street” taught, which is the focus of the present chapter. Because the central question to Ball and Bogatz differs from our present one, it is not surprising that the ETS data were more suited to answering their question than ours. This does not mean that the ETS team totally neglected the question of whether “Sesame Street” taught independently of encouragement, for each ETS report contained analyses in which encouragement and viewing were treated as independent factors to test whether they affected learning...

  12. Chapter 8 The Probable Effects of “Sesame Street” on the National Achievement Gap
    (pp. 267-310)

    Figure 8.1 would result if one took a heterogeneous group of preschoolers of equal age and charted their development through the school years on a general knowledge test that had no ceiling effects. One can see from the figure that children would become increasingly more knowledgeable in general; that the variability in knowledge would increase with the years; and that there would also be an increase over time in the difference in knowledge between children who originally scored high and low. It would seem from this that the absolutely more knowledgeable children acquire relatively more knowledge as they mature.


  13. Chapter 9 The Dollar Costs of “Sesame Street”
    (pp. 311-322)

    It is desirable to establish the ratio of any program’s costs to its benefits. Four items of information are necessary to do this: an index of costs; an index of benefits; a unit of persons or aggregates that incurs the costs and enjoys the benefits; and a time interval during which the costs and benefits become apparent. Although we would like to be able to conclude with a statement that “Sesame Street” costs X units for a benefit of Y units per child per year, there are a number of reasons why we will not be able to make such...

  14. Chapter 10 Placing a Value on “Sesame Street” and on Three National Objectives for Preschool Programs
    (pp. 323-362)

    Values are the central beliefs in our cognitlve systems from which attitudes and lower-order beliefs are derived. Terminal values, such as freedom or salvation, are those which do not need justifying in other terms, whereas lower-order beliefs—e.g., belief in the current American electoral system—need to be justified in terms of the extent to which they promote values like freedom (to vote) or equality (of representation). Values can also be instrumental, and once again the crucial attribute is irreducibility. Thus, honesty needs no further justification for most persons, but a belief in Sunday School attendance might have to be...

  15. Chapter 11 Some Implications of Our Evaluation for Social Policy Relevant to “Sesame Street”
    (pp. 363-386)

    In the proposal for funding the third year of the Children’s Television Workshop, it was mentioned that “Sesame Street” would not be evaluated in its 1971–1972 season, but that it might be evaluated again in its 1972–1973 season. Although never undertaken, it was proposed that a 1972–1973 evaluation should be similar to the two ETS evaluations that we previously examined. Since there seems little point in another demonstration of the adequacy of encouragement to view “Sesame Street” in the cognitive realm, we propose an outline of evaluation designs that are meant to examine important questions that have...

  16. Some Thoughts on this Secondary Evaluation
    (pp. 387-404)
    Samuel Ball and Gerry Ann Bogatz

    In 1969, Howard Freeman of Russell Sage Foundation asked for the cooperation of Educational Testing Service In a new project that was to improve the capabilities of social scientists in conducting evaluative research on social programs. The project involved the funding of three metaevaluations or, oversimply, evaluations of evaluations.¹ The basic purposes at the time and subsequently reiterated included:

    Providing “case studies” so that students and practitioners of evaluative research could examine the processes of this kind of research in detail

    Providing independent and timely assessment² of the evaluations being studied

    Examining problems and strengths across evaluations in different social...

  17. Index
    (pp. 405-410)