Utah Tech-Based Kindergarten Readiness Works, Report Says


A new report on Utah’s early literacy program, UPSTART, reveals that the kindergarten readiness project improves disadvantaged children’s literacy performance compared to students who did not participate. Through the home-based, parent-led curriculum, participants were able to bridge literacy gaps and be kindergarten ready.

UPSTART is a statewide early literacy program that helps young learners develop their literacy skills and be ready for classroom-based education. Through the program, families have access to Waterford’s curriculum from home. The curriculum includes fun, interactive activities for children, provides support to parents, and instructions for educating and testing children’s progress.

The report by the nonprofit Waterford Institute that developed UPSTART reveals that the early literacy program is effective in helping disadvantaged children close learning gaps and adequately prepare for school.

According to the report, children learned to read words that are considered basic and are often found in pre-primer reading programs. The participating learners also had better phonological awareness as they were able to distinguish among sounds and pronounce them correctly.

UPSTART is a classic win-win, Utah State Senator J. Stuart Adams said according to Utah Pulse. Adams commented:

“UPSTART has been a great program and has been a very beneficial option for many families in our state. He added, “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.”

According to the Bader Reading and Language Assessment, participating students scored on average six points higher in phonological skills compared to children not participating in the program, eSchoolNews reports. During the same assessment, participating learners scored on average 12 points higher on their phonological and morphological awareness of words.

The Evaluation and Training Institute released the report, which analyzed student performance for the academic year 2013-2014. More than 7 in 10 participating families received a computer drive containing the UPSTART learning materials. A single-digit percentage of participants either got a computer loan and free Internet or borrowed a computer to use UPSTART’s curriculum.

Commenting on the program’s results, Benjamin Heuston, the president of the Waterford Institute, said:

“Closing learning gaps early is crucial for a child’s development and for their future success both academically and as adults.”

Out of 1,577 preschool children enrolled in the fifth year of the UPSTART program, 70% were from a disadvantaged background. Roughly half the students were girls and half boys, 50.5% and 49.5% respectively, while more than 7 out of 10 students were Caucasian.

Waterford Institute is a nonprofit that developed UPSTART in 2009. For the last five years, more than 7,000 families and learners took part in the program that is now available nationwide to schools districts and local governments, UPSTART says on its official website.

Apart from the UPSTART curriculum, parents receive a learning coach that offers support during the education process. The program also features Parent Manager, which gives parents the ability to track learner’s learning, progress, and performance.

The latest report echoes previous years’ analyses in which a similarly positive impact was measured, illustrating the program’s effectiveness in improving early literacy skills in young learners.