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Schools Testing Students To Evaluate 'Channel One'

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Students at two Roman Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are not just watching the "Channel One" classroom news show this year--they are being tested on it.

The tests will help educators in the archdiocese decide whether to stick with the controversial daily news program for teenagers.

"We are testing their knowledge of cultural literacy, which is something Whittle promises that Channel One will help," said the Rev. Joseph McGeown, principal of Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia, Pa.

A random sample of 50 juniors and seniors at the school were given an independent test at the beginning of the school year to gauge their knowledge in the humanities, social sciences, and science. They will be tested again in May.

In the meantime, they are watching the Whittle show each day for its 12-minute dose of news, special reports, and advertising.

Father McGeown said the school will compare its results on the cultural-literacy test with scores for students at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Pa., which is not receiving Channel One.

Cardinal Dougherty is one of 16 high schools in the Philadelphia archdiocese that signed up for Channel One, but one of only two that are administering tests to students to measure the show's educational impact.

At St. Pius X High School in Pottstown, Pa., all 520 students recently took another 50-question test on current events and geography that will be used to evaluate the show's effectiveness. The students will take a similar test in the spring, said the Rev. Gerard Hoffman, the principal.

Whittle's Efforts

Thomas Ingram, a spokesman for Whittle, said the schools' plans to evaluate Channel One with before- and-after tests were unique.

"That shows that we have to keep the programming at an acceptable level," he said.

Whittle itself has funded a broader research effort for Channel One. The company has awarded a research grant to the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan to study the program's effect on education over the next three years, officials said.

In an assessment conducted after the company's pilot test of the pro gram in 1989, students who had watched the news show scored higher on most questions than did students at five control schools who had not watched the show.--mw

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