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Sesame Street is Good, But Not Good Enough to Replace Preschool, Researchers Say

Sesame Street is Good, but Not Good Enough to Replace Preschool, Researchers Say

The researchers behind a recently published study that revealed "Sesame Street" helps young viewers perform better in school are urging others to not use the results to dismiss the need for preschool but instead to use the results to see the value of television in learning.

"To be sure, our study concludes that 'Sesame Street' has some educational effects that are comparable in size to that of Head Start. But we do not believe that “Sesame Street” should substitute for preschool or other enriching activities," according to researchers Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip B. Levine for

They felt the need to respond to a crop of media headlines that referred to their study's results as an indicator that educational programs such as "Sesame Street" might serve as an alternative—not a supplement—to early education.

"We should not swap one good thing for another. Rather, we support the role that TV and technology more generally can play in assisting parents, caregivers, teachers, and policymakers to augment more traditional preschool interventions," they said.

Kearney and Levine describe "Sesame Street" as the world's first MOOC—Massive Open Online Course—available to viewers for free to provide educational content to millions, thus making it an important tool particularly for young learners from low-income families and/or areas.

"Focusing on children from non-rural parts of the country, we found that children who lived in places with better access to the show did better in elementary school, as compared to those with limited access and those who were older at the time the show was introduced...Importantly, we found that this effect was larger among children who grew up in economically disadvantaged areas."

"Sesame Street" continues to adapt to a changing world and continues to inspire many other great educational television programs since its introduction in 1969, the researchers urge parents and educators to treat such programs as "Khan Pre-K" (a reference to the free online learning site Khan Academy), but not as preschool itself.

"The average preschooler in the United States watches four hours of television a day. Let’s take advantage of the fact that many toddlers are watching TV to expose them to beneficial content," Kearney and Levine urge.

Kearney and Levine hope that their work will increase the use of "Sesame Street" and similar programs as supplementary learning tools, but also hope that the importance of preschool will not be forgotten in the process.

Read the full article here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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