10/25/2009 12:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sesame Workshop Gets Googley on K-12 Education Problems

America's literacy problems are as bad as ever.

Sesame Street Workshop, home of beloved characters such as Elmo and Grover, and its research center, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (JGCC) are teaming up with Google, Common Sense Media, foundations and the Department of Education to tackle two of the pressing problems in the American K-12 education system: the K-4 literacy problem and the high school dropout crisis.


These issues will be addressed in a Forum called "Breakthrough Learning in the Digital Age" that will be broadcast live on the Web October 27 and 28. The goal of the Forum is to address the stubborn and preventable literacy crisis and dropout crisis we are suffering here in the US.

Addressing these problems will be key educational policy leaders together with industry leaders and government leaders who will be discussing solutions to the nation's education issues. It hopefully will be the beginning of a powerful collaboration of multi-sector brains who can wrestle with the issues and come up with solid recommendations to solve the literacy issues at the elementary level. We need to take action now. In the morning on of October 28 speakers will focus on literacy issues; in the afternoon speakers will focus on the dropout crisis.

The literacy issue is a major one; many kids today are not learning to read. If kids fail to learn to read by fourth grade (and about 40% do not learn), then their problems compound year after year and by ninth grade, students find school frustrating and useless and drop out. The early years can be compared to the foundation of a building; if the foundation isn't solid, the building won't stand -- no matter how beautiful the top floors may be. That is why the nation needs to focus on the early years of education and prevent the literacy problems.

Parents can be part of the solution by just reading to their preschoolers. Children who enter school without even knowing the alphabet are at a serious disadvantage because they start off behind the majority of other students. Parents should read to their children, but in many cases they don't. They use the electronic nanny -- the TV -- and kids are watching inappropriate shows. If parents do use TV, they should at least have kids watch educational programs that will teach letter recognition (like Sesame Street) and reading skills (like Super Why) or the PBS programs. It helps prepare them for learning to read. But that is just a part of the solution. Schools need to be more effective at teaching reading.

Anyone with an Internet connection can watch the webcast that will be broadcast live by Google on October 27 and October 28. You can also join in the discussion; the Forum will be using a new online tool called Google Moderator which allows anyone to submit questions for the speakers either before the conference live. Just click here to get Moderator.

The line up of speakers is impressive, just to name a few. You can see their bios online here.
The full agenda is there too.

* James Bennet, Editor-in-Chief of The Atlantic
* Geoff Canada, President and Chief Executive Office, Harlem Children's Zone
* Linda Darling Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford
* Reed Hastings, CEO and Founder of NetFlix
* Martha Kanter, Under-Secretary, United States Department of Education
* Joel Klein, Chancellor of NY City Schools
* Gary Knell, CEO of Sesame Workshop
* Marisa Mayer, Vice President, Search Products & User Experience, Google
* John Merrow, Education Correspondent, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
* Jason Levy, Principal, New York City Intermediate School 339

You can see the entire list of speakers here.

People can also follow the Forum on Twitter and read along with the narrative on the Breakthrough blog