Waterford UPSTART offers free at-home early education option for Utah families

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SALT LAKE CITY — With the current COVID-19 crisis bringing many traditional early education options to a halt, parents across the nation are scrambling to find a way to keep their preschool-aged children educated and entertained. Recent state funding will allow Utah families access to a free at-home education option to help get their children ready for kindergarten.

This year, the Utah State Legislature provided Waterford.org $5 million in additional state funding to bring Waterford UPSTART, the early education program developed in Utah in 2009, to more 4-year-olds across the state. According to a press release from Waterford.org, the company has a goal to reach 25,000 4-year-olds across the state.

“We’re grateful to be continuously recognized for the important work we’ve been doing in Utah for over a decade,” Benjamin Heuston, CEO of Waterford.org, said in the press release. “We’re eager to put this additional funding to use by helping more children across the state prepare for a successful academic career, no matter their location or socioeconomic background.”

Waterford UPSTART is an in-home, early education program that gives parents the tools they need to become their child’s first teacher, including a computer and internet access at no cost. The program provides positive parent-child interactions while delivering personalized, online instruction 15 minutes a day, five days a week. Parents are also given support through a personal coach and tips to continue engaging their children offline.

“This Utah-created, early education solution is proving successful at reaching 4-year-olds all across Utah, regardless of where they live or their economic background, and getting them ready for school,” Utah Senate President Stuart Adams said. “In 2009, the Utah Legislature saw a need for an early education option for those families who didn’t otherwise have access to PreK. Because of the success of the Waterford UPSTART program, we’ve expanded access to even more children. Whether they are in PreK, at home with mom or in daycare, they can use the program at home with their parents to get a cognitive boost.”

Waterford UPSTART, which started by serving just 1,600 Utah children, will now serve around half of all 4-year-olds in the state.

According to the press release, Waterford UPSTART has been validated by eight years of rigorous external evaluations in Utah, and a third-party randomized-controlled trial shows strong evidence of effectiveness.

“Not only that, but these learning gains are being shown to last over time,” the press release states. “A longitudinal study conducted in 2016 by the Utah State Board of Education shows Waterford UPSTART children outperform their peers on state standardized tests in literacy skills all the way through the fourth grade.”

These gains were consistent across all subgroups, including special education, minority, low-income and English language-learner populations.

More information is available at Waterford.org.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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