February 28, 2001 2 min read

TV Test Prep: Because of the success district officials in Cleveland had with math and science test-prep classes given to some 1,200 students on Saturday mornings, they wanted to expand that effort. They decided the best way to reach more children would be through a television program.

“We felt that [classroom] program had an impact,” said Thandiwe Peebles, the executive director of academic affairs for the 74,000-student district.

After school officials met with producers from City Beat 50, a local public-access cable channel, the district and the station created “Super Saturdays: Entering the PASSing Zones.” The show began airing Jan. 27 and will run until early March, when the state exams, which also cover language arts, are scheduled to be given.

Each program, which airs multiple times on weekends and also during the week, consists of a taped version of a Saturday-morning class given at a local school a week earlier, and a shorter lesson-of-the-day. Sections of the show alternate between 4th and 9th grade lessons.

Test scores rose last year after the Saturday-morning classes began, and the district will use the same criteria to judge whether the television show is a success, Ms. Peebles said. “We’re a very data-driven district,” she explained.

Ms. Peebles herself has appeared on the show in a section designed to inform parents of the dates of the exams, resources available to them, and activities they can do at home with their children to help them prepare for the tests.

The district also offers online practice tests and activity books that include definitions of words used in test instructions.

Ms. Peebles’ appearances have earned her some unexpected fame, which is one of the ways she knows students are watching the program. “I have had children in the hallway say, ‘I know you, I saw you on television,’” she said.

She has also received feedback from principals, teachers, and even people in her church. “We know that the community is watching,” she said. Principals have made videotapes of the programs to share with their staffs, and some teachers have used the programs in their classrooms, Ms. Peebles added.

Even though the program is available only to students with access to the cable television station, Ms. Peebles said that it is still reaching large numbers of students, and that City Beat 50 was the district’s best option for such a program.

“What network channel would let us run this?” she said.

—Michelle Galley

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2001 edition of Education Week