In October, the Reform Board trumpeted a new component to its Lighthouse program.
From 3:30 to 4 each afternoon, WFBT Channel 23 would broadcast The Homework Show, featuring concepts from Lighthouse program lesson plans. The lessons would be taught by Chicago public school teachers who had been recommended by their principals and reviewed by the Office of Schools and Regions. Also, the show would use similar reading and math materials and textbooks that Lighthouse teachers use.
In addition, students would be able to call the show and ask questions about the daily lesson.
“The station approached the board about doing this for free,” says Schools and Regions Chief Blondean Davis. “We are encouraging our students to watch it at home, and schools to watch it there or tape it. We’re trying to reach our kids through every medium.”
However, schools Catalyst contacted indicate that that is easier said than done.
Patricia Kent, principal of Penn Elementary in North Lawndale, says she publicized the program in a newsletter to parents but that she doesn’t know whether anyone is watching it. “Some of my kids don’t have telephones or televisions, let along VCRs to tape the program and watch it later,” she says.
Penn’s Lighthouse coordinator tapes the program, she says, but she is not aware of any requests from teachers to show it to their students later.
At Morse Elementary in Humboldt Park, Lighthouse Coordinator Demetri Smith notes that the program airs at the same time her students are preparing for their recreational hour. “I wish they had aired it earlier,” she says. “My kids are finished with their academics when it comes on, and I don’t have time to tape it.”
Jan Shimek, co-producer of the program, says he’s aware of the timing problems but can’t do anything about them.
“The Stock Market Observer, which is probably in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest-running, live show, has aired from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for the last 20 years or more,” he explains. “They are not likely going to cut back a half an hour. Plus they are a mainstay in the Chicago area, so we had to go with 3:30 p.m.”