The Washington Post features research that indicates Sesame Street may have done more to improve education than any elected official in South Dakota in the last five decades:
The paper from the University of Maryland’s Melissa Kearney and Wellesley College’s Phillip Levine finds that the show has left children more likely to stay at the appropriate grade level for their age, an effect that is particularly pronounced among boys, African Americans and children who grow up in disadvantaged areas.
After “Sesame Street” was introduced, children living in places where its broadcast could be more readily received saw a 14 percent drop in their likelihood of being behind in school. Levine and Kearney note in their paper that a wide body of previous research has found that Head Start, the pre-kindergarten program for low-income Americans, delivers a similar benefit [Jim Tankersley, “Study: Kids Can Learn as Much from ‘Sesame Street’ as from Preschool,” Washington Post, 2015.06.07].
Tankersley writes that the key to conveying the original Sesame Street curriculum of “letters, numbers, and cooperation” as well as the newer focus areas of science, attention, and impulse control, is storytelling:
“Sesame Street” researchers aggressively test their shows via focus groups to see what works. Their success, they said, rests on a simple formula that wraps education in entertainment, harnessing the power of human narrative. They said the approach could easily extend to college students — to MOOCs — as well as preschoolers.
“Storytelling is critical,” Clarke said. “If you organize information in storytelling, children are more likely to learn it. And adults are, too” [Tankersley, 2015.06.07].
Big Bird for Secretary of Education… and Roosevelt Franklin for Governor (he must be old enough by now):