Children across the nation are heading back to school. But many students—including students of color, English Learners, and students coming from low-income households—face systemic barriers to high-quality educational opportunities, resulting in significant academic achievement gaps. On tests like the National Assessment of Educational Progress(also known as the Nation’s Report Card), these gaps exist across subject areas, with gaps often widening in higher grade levels. Here in Massachusetts, and across the nation, we all have a stake in making sure that every child has an opportunity to learn, thrive and succeed.
The mission of public media has always been to educate and support learners of every age with quality programming based in educational research and best practices. That’s why more than 80% of parents rate PBS as the #1 network to best prepare children for success in school. PBS stations also reach more children in low-income households than any other kids’ TV network.
In public media, we strive to level the playing field in three key areas:
1. Produce diverse, inclusive and quality screen content for all ages: We know that kids love consuming and interacting with any kind of media, whether video, mobile apps, or video games. We ensure that the media content we produce is educational, representative and inclusive. Every day, local public media stations support 2.5 million students, parents and teachers with quality programs through television, PBS Kids online, and on our PBS Kids video app. These programs are free and accessible to all, and have proven to be engaging for kids.
While public media has historically excelled at producing educational content for early learners, we are focusing on reaching middle-school-aged kids caught in the gap. The transition from middle to high school is a critical period of identity formation among young people; it’s an age where they can become engaged or disengaged in the world they live in. We want to provide them with content that prepares them to be engaged and thoughtful citizens.
WGBH is now moving beyond TV and radio and working on emerging platforms where tweens and teens are—Twitch, YouTube, Instagram, podcasts, Apple TV, Roku —to deliver science, history, or literacy learning through entertaining content.
2. Work directly in the classroom with underserved children: Latinx, Black, immigrant, and low-income students have vastly different experiences in schools than their white peers. For example, in Massachusetts, only 11 percent of English Learners in eighth grade fully met grade-level expectations in math.
Our efforts start by working directly alongside our teachers to provide educational activities and resources in the classroom. With support from the Department of Education’s Ready to Learn program, local public media stations are helping to close the academic achievement gap with highly researched content and community outreach to help low-income early learners prepare for school.
WGBH’s Education team, along with our local Education Ambassadors, work directly with English Learners and their families to develop hands-on science learning experiences. PBS-D, our distribution partner, has translated kids’ programs into Spanish. We work with community partners to train teachers and caregivers and provide them with educational resources in schools, day care centers, libraries, hospitals, at summer camps and mobile learning labs, reinforcing what children are taught through multiple touchpoints across platforms, including digital learning games for children with disabilities.
3. Connect students, parents, and teachers. Nearly 20 years ago, WGBH created an online platform of educational resources in science and history for Massachusetts teachers and students called Teachers’ Domain. We recognized, together with PBS, that by tapping the rich content available across the public media system, we could scale a new, digital educational resource to support children in all classrooms nationwide. In 2011, this platform became PBS LearningMedia (www.pbslearningmedia.org).
PBS LearningMedia offers educators nationwide free access to thousands of classroom-ready digital resources that support PreK-12 educators and learners. Our hundreds of thousands of compelling, standards-aligned educational media resources, created with input from local educators, reach a national audience of over 1 million educators each month, and more than 20 million students across all 50 states. This free collection of classroom-ready digital materials creates access where it otherwise might not exist.
In a rapidly changing world, public media must work with others so that no one falls behind. We all have a stake in ensuring that children learn, and are inspired and empowered. Creating the next generation of engaged and educated citizens depends on it.