Study Shows The Electric Company Summer Learning Program Leads to Educational Gains
Program based on PBS KIDS series and developed by Sesame Workshop expanding to 25,000 classrooms and out-of-school learning programs this year
(06/12/2012) San Francisco, California — Children today move easily between related books, movies, and video games. Multiple forms of media have proven to be powerful in terms of entertainment value, but does this cross-platform approach have implications for education as well? WestEd today released the results of a formative evaluation of The Electric Company (TEC) Summer Learning Program that suggest potential for the use of multiple media in learning.
The Electric Company Summer Learning Program builds on the success of the television series The Electric Company – funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and airing on PBS KIDS – in teaching crucial areas of literacy, numeracy and the vocabulary of math. The summer program, created by Sesame Workshop, is designed to promote literacy and math skills among children in early elementary school, particularly among those in low-income areas.
The summer program's centerpiece is a curriculum that employs a consistent narrative story line across multiple forms of media, including television episodes, online gaming, and printed materials, to reinforce educational concepts.
In a recent study to test the effectiveness of the TEC Summer Learning Program curriculum in teaching targeted math vocabulary and numeracy and phonics skills, WestEd researchers reported positive findings:
- 41 percent gain in mathematics vocabulary
- 20 percent gain in numeracy skills
- 17 percent gain in phonics skills
In addition to improved learning outcomes, every participating teacher reported that the program helped increase student morale and enthusiasm in their summer school setting.
"I think The Electric Company Summer Learning Program is extremely engaging. Kids are learning things that they don't even realize. They're learning by going through all the different activities that they do in one day," said a teacher from Natchaug School in Windham, Connecticut, one of the test sites.
Students weren't the only ones who benefitted. More than 90 percent of the participating teachers reported that:
- The program increased their motivation and confidence in leading groups.
- They would use the curriculum again.
- They would recommend it to other summer school or afterschool teachers.
More than half of participating teachers reported that they learned new instructional strategies for teaching mathematics and literacy — teaching vocabulary, incorporating technology into lessons, and combining different modes of learning to keep students engaged in a topic.
"This study demonstrates the promise of using multi-media curricula to improve student outcomes. The program also showed great potential for developing teacher confidence and expertise in using a multi-media curriculum," says Betsy McCarthy, senior researcher at WestEd and lead investigator for the study.
Based on these promising student and teacher outcomes, Sesame Workshop, CPB and PBS are expanding the program to reach 25,000 classrooms and out-of-school learning programs this summer through the Ready To Learn initiative.
The TEC Summer Learning Program curriculum, including online professional training for teachers, episodes of The Electric Company, group activities, and the The Adventures of The Electric Company on Prankster Planet online gaming experience, are now available on PBS KIDS Lab.
About the Study
The study involved 152 students and 16 teachers who used the curriculum for 90 minutes a day for 24 days. Summer schools participating in the study represented rural, urban, and suburban areas, and included a diverse student population with a high proportion of children from low-income areas.
WestEd's study of The Electric Company Summer Learning Program curriculum was funded by CPB through a Ready To Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant supports the development of educational television and digital media targeted at preschool and early elementary school children and their families.
Should additional funding become available, The Electric Company Summer Learning Program may be offered for wider online distribution.
Online Resources of Interest
Complete evaluation report
Executive summary of the evaluation report
Highlights of the evaluation report highlights
Body of the report
The contents of this release were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
The project is funded by a Ready To Learn grant (PR/AWARD No. U295A100025, CFDA No. 84.295A) provided by the Department of Education to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
About Ready To Learn The Ready To Learn Initiative is a grant program managed by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement. It supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted at preschool and early elementary school children and their families. Its general goal is to promote early learning and school readiness, with a particular interest in reaching low-income children. In addition to creating television and other media products, the program supports activities intended to promote national distribution of the programming, effective educational uses of the programming, community-based outreach, and research on educational effectiveness.
About CPB CPB, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government's investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,300 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.
About Sesame Workshop Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization that revolutionized children's television programming with the landmark Sesame Street. The Workshop produces Sesame Street programs, seen in over 150 countries, and other acclaimed shows, including The Electric Company, to help bridge the literacy gap. Beyond television, the Workshop produces content for multiple media platforms on a wide range of issues including literacy, health and military deployment. Initiatives meet specific needs to help young children and families develop critical skills, acquire healthy habits and build emotional strength to prepare them for lifelong learning. Learn more at www.sesameworkshop.org.
About PBS KIDS PBS KIDS, the number one educational media brand for kids, offers all children the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television, online and community-based programs. For more information on specific PBS KIDS programs supporting literacy, science, math and more, visit PBS.org/pressroom, or follow PBS KIDS on Twitter and Facebook.