Report Validates Utah’s UPSTART Initiative Helps Young Children Read at or above Grade Level

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

shows that UPSTART,
a statewide kindergarten readiness initiative in Utah, helps
participating children develop early literacy skills before they start
kindergarten, and it does so at higher rates than among children who
don’t participate.

The UPSTART program, developed by Waterford
, uses an early literacy curriculum delivered in the home
through educational technology. The report 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. The report shows that 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.*

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

The report on UPSTART’s fifth year (2013-2014) 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.”

UPSTART was launched by Waterford Institute 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 as there is continually growing demand and consistently
positive results as evidenced by external evaluations and a 99.8 percent
parent satisfaction rate. The program is now in its seventh year and is
serving more than 6,600 children or 16.5 percent of Utah’s

“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, and it forms a unique
partnership with parents and caregivers to ensure all children obtain
the education necessary to start them on a path to success in school.
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 just 15 minutes a day, five
days a week.

UPSTART is based on Waterford Early Learning, an award-winning
curriculum software that is research-proven to help all children make
significant cognitive gains, regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic
status or geographic locale.

Waterford was founded with the mission of using technology and
interactive learning to close early learning gaps because of a crucial
research finding: children not caught up to their peers by grade three
are four times less likely to graduate from high school. In recent
years, expectations for entering kindergarteners have become more
academic. Children who enter kindergarten without some familiarity with
print, letter and sound recognition, and beginning writing skills are at
risk for falling behind in school. UPSTART helps achieve Waterford’s
mission by helping to close this gap for children who need it most.

Waterford Institute is a nonprofit research center that creates
personalized cloud-based instruction through award-winning curriculum,
content and assessment for children aged pre-K to 2nd grade. As a
nonprofit, Waterford is uniquely focused on providing accessibility,
equity and excellence for our youngest learners to position them for a
lifetime of learning and success. For more information, visit
or call 801-349-2200.

* Brigance Inventory of Early Development. Bader Reading and Language


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