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 children learned 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?
THOMAS D. COOK is Joan and Sarepta Harrison Chair of Ethics and Justice and professor of sociology, psychology, and education and social policy at Northwestern University.