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

Most of this year’s program participants (74 percent) received a computer drive with the UPSTART curriculum loaded on it. About 8 percent received a computer loan and a free internet subscription to help them access the UPSTART curriculum. Another 7 percent were loaned a personal computer to use at home while participating in UPSTART.

The report was released by Evaluation and Training Institute, the external evaluator hired by the Utah State Office of Education to assess the program’s effectiveness.

“We’re extremely pleased with UPSTART’s Year 5 results and grateful for the opportunity to continue preparing many of Utah’s early learners for kindergarten,” said Benjamin Heuston, president of Waterford Institute. “Closing learning gaps early is crucial for a child’s development and for their future success both academically and as adults.”

The Waterford Institute launched UPSTART in 2009 in partnership with the Utah State Legislature to develop the school readiness skills of preschool-aged children. The legislature has expanded the program several times, and it is now in its seventh year and is serving more than 6,600 children or 16.5 percent of Utah’s four-year-olds.

“UPSTART has been a great program and has been a very beneficial option for many families in our state,” said Utah State Senator J. Stuart Adams. “Those children go on to perform at significantly higher levels on their pre-kindergarten assessments and avoid the remedial work necessary to get the children on track when they do enter kindergarten the next year. From the State’s point of view and the participating parents’ viewpoint, UPSTART is a classic win-win.”

UPSTART is designed to work in the home. Each family has an assigned learning coach to support the child’s progress, and support is offered in English and Spanish. UPSTART’s Parent Manager lets parents monitor their child’s overall usage, progress and scores. Students use it for 15 minutes a day, five days a week.

This year, 1,577 preschool children were enrolled in UPSTART and participated from September 2013 through June 2014. A majority (70 percent) of the preschool children enrolled this year were from low-income families.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione

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