ideastream Helps Kids From the First to Last Day of School

July 2015

ideastream: banner image: iStockPhoto apple and chalkboard

For more than forty years, public media has provided quality, educational programming free to Americans of all ages.

In recent years, through the CPB-PBS Ready To Learn (RTL) and American Graduate initiatives, local public media stations have worked with teachers, caregivers, and students of all ages to make an impact in education from the first day of preschool to the last day of high school.

The CPB-PBS Ready To Learn (RTL) grant helps make possible the development of educational television and digital media content for preschool and early elementary school children and their families, especially those from low-income backgrounds. The program also supports the professional development needs and educators, as well as community-based engagement through partnerships with local organizations. Through American Graduate public media is combating the high school dropout crisis and helping to raise the U.S. graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020.

In Cleveland, Ohio WVIZ/PBS ideastream has been recognized by the local community and nationally by White House staff for their work as a partner in delivering high quality early educational tools. Earlier this year, ideastream was awarded the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation Service to Children Award for Television for its comprehensive work in the area of education.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) presented the award to WVIZ/PBS ideastream and said, “WVIZ decided to get involved and they are making a difference. These programs can be life-changing and we thank WVIZ for their hard work.”

ideastream’s education team works with the Slavic Village/Broadway community, focusing on early reading and math literacy improvement.

Focusing on the region’s educational challenges to affect positive outcomes is a long-held priority for ideastream. Through an ongoing community engagement process called The Listening Project, ideastream regularly checks in with the Northeast Ohio community to ascertain the public’s perceptions of the region’s assets and challenges. The information learned from The Listening Project provides a blueprint for action for ideastream, informing its production priorities and its development and implementation of services.

“WVIZ/PBS signed on the air 50 years ago thanks in large part to a per pupil pledge by local school districts who realized the station’s educational potential for their students,” said Linda Williams, Senior Director, Education at ideastream. “Throughout those 50 years, WVIZ has used its broadcast signal; harnessed technologies; provided a range of teacher training; and worked hand-in-hand with students, parents and caregivers to help children learn, grow, stay in school and realize their dreams.”

ideastream helped “Kick-Off to Summer Learning” when it hosted the community event in the Slavic Village neighborhood of Cleveland on June 2. The event, originally created to promote RTL, was expanded to include a range of partners with summer learning or school readiness services that would benefit the neighborhood children. The station decorated a waiting room in the Metro Health Medical Center where children engaged with RTL educational games on iPads and a SMART Board. The popular PBS KIDS characters Peg + Cat, originally funded in part by a grant from Ready To Learn and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, also made a guest appearance. While the kids were playing, ideastream education staff met with parents and shared the RTL materials so that they can be used in the home to improve early learning and school readiness.

ideastream’s RTL work has generated interest and support from inner city parents. Like all parents, they are concerned with the options they can pursue to support early learning in the home, as well where they can go to enroll their children in early learning and kindergarten programs. “The parents of Pre-K students are thrilled to learn about the transmedia approach to Ready To Learn, said Williams.” They feel that because of this structure, they always have access to the programming that is designed to support early learners. Additionally, by providing app download cards, we are increasing the access that parents have to assets that they may not be able to otherwise afford.”

In the classroom, Pre-K teachers who have incorporated RTL games available on iPads into their lesson plans have reported that they have seen improvement in many foundational skills, such as letter recognition, number sense, and blending sounds.

ideastream’s American Graduate initiative includes town halls with teachers and community partners.

In late March, ideastream hosted a day focused on Ready to Learn and American Graduate. The day started with a partner luncheon at the Polish American Club, followed by a tour of the MetroHealth Broadway Health Center where literacy volunteers read to children and use RTL materials and games to provide a fun, safe learning environment. Later in the evening, author Wes Moore spoke to a crowd of over 200 community members and educators –representing Pre-K through college –about the work of American Graduate and the importance of improving high school graduation rates in Greater Cleveland. Moore also encouraged students to plan a purposeful and personal educational path that will lead to careers and improved quality of life.

In addition to the Town Hall and Round Table, ideastream continues to leverage its relationship with community partners in the Greater Cleveland area and conducted follow up sessions with the 8th graders who attended an American Graduate event at the Idea Center in December 2014. The sessions allowed for the 8th graders to take a deeper dive into success planning.

Recently, ideastream began its Champion Campaign – a focused effort to highlight and tell the stories of champions, high level to grassroots, via television, web, and social media. The station was also awarded a Mini Documentary grant from WNET which will air during American Graduate Day 2015 on October 3.

Through American Graduate ideastream helps students share their personal stories on the path to graduation.

Ideastream is also working with educators to provide professional learning opportunities in a variety of formats including panel discussions, conferences, face-to-face, online and distance learning. ideastream offers instructional coaching and specialized learning opportunities through Ohio Ready to Learn and a Science and Math Consortium which is part of ideastream Education. Additionally, it has worked in a number of Cleveland area high schools providing professional development and coaching to the teachers.

To learn more about ideastream’s work with Ready To Learn or American Graduate, go to