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Channel One Impact on Performance Found To Be 'Moderate'

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The controversial Channel One classroom news show has a "moderate'' effect on students' performance on current-events tests, according to the final report of a three-year study of the program.

The study, led by Jerome Johnston of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, found that high school students at "exemplary'' Channel One schools--defined as schools where teachers make good use of the 12-minute daily show's content--scored 5 percent better on current-events tests than students at control high schools, where the program was not used. Middle school students in exemplary Channel One schools scored 8 percent better on average.

Extrapolating the results to more typical Channel One schools, where teachers do not always follow the show with discussion of the news, would still result in "small but important'' advantages, the report says.

Channel One "may be judged to be a very important educational resource yielding strong results in schools with a receptive climate for current events,'' concludes the report, "Taking a Measure of Channel One: A Three Year Perspective.''

The latest results represent an improved report card for Channel One. In the first two years of the study, students in Channel One schools scored only about 3 percent better than control groups on current-events tests covering the previous three months of news.

Critics of the advertising-supported show seized on the earlier results as evidence that Channel One was not only exposing a captive student audience to commercials, but it was not effectively teaching them about the news.

One such critic said the latest findings will not change many minds about Channel One.

"Just because one aspect of the program might under certain circumstances be shown to be beneficial does not mean we should give away [class] time to show it,'' said William D. Dawson, the acting superintendent of public instruction in California. "You should be able to achieve the same results without having to use advertising.''

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The current-events results are based on tests of students in five pairs of schools across the country. Students were tested in February 1993 and May 1993 based on news events from the previous three to six months.

A survey of 100 Channel One schools conducted for the report found that strong majorities of students, teachers, and principals were happy with the program.

However, Mr. Johnston found that Channel One apparently has not led students to discuss the news outside of school or to seek more information from newsmagazines or other television newscasts.

According to the student surveys, "There were no differences between students in Channel One and control schools in the amount they talked about news stories outside of class (once or twice a month on average),'' the report says.

Summaries of the report are free; full-length copies are available for $15 each, pre-paid, from the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, P.O. Box 1248, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48106.

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