Utah’s early literacy program works–here’s why

Latest evaluation of statewide early literacy program shows high correlation with kindergarten readiness compared to control group

A statewide kindergarten readiness initiative in Utah is helping children develop early literacy skills before they enter kindergarten, and is doing so at a higher rate than among children who are not in the program.

The state’s UPSTART program, developed by the nonprofit Waterford Institute, uses an early literacy curriculum delivered digitally in the home.

A report analyzing the program’s fifth year suggests that technology has considerable merit for delivering curriculum, teaching critical early reading skills that are known predictors of later school performance, and closing early learning gaps that disproportionately affect disadvantaged children.

According to the report, when compared to similar nonparticipants, UPSTART produced:

  • Large effects in helping children learn how to read basic vocabulary words found in pre-primer reading programs.
  • An average of nearly 12 points higher on tests measuring children’s ability to hear and see differences in words and in the letters of the alphabet, as measured by the Brigance assessment.
  • An average of six points higher in learning how to pronounce letter sounds, learning how to tell the difference between letter sounds and in developing their vocabulary, as measured by the Bader assessment (Brigance Inventory of Early Development. Bader Reading and Language Assessment.).

This evaluation of Utah’s UPSTART program is based on the 2013-2014 school year and closely resembles results shown from previous years that UPSTART prepares children to enter kindergarten at or above grade level. Previous evaluations found UPSTART children had early literacy learning rates on two well-known reading assessments two to three times higher than children in a control group.

Laura Ascione

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