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Sandy – Eighteen rural Utah school districts have signed on to participate in an $11.5 million federal grant award to expand UPSTART, Waterford Institute's free, in-home preschool program, to their regions.
Waterford Institute, a Sandy-based research and education technology nonprofit, has signed a memorandum of understanding with 18 Utah school districts: Beaver, Daggett, Duchesne County, Emery, Garfield, Grand, Kane, Millard, North Sanpete, North Summit, Piute, Rich, San Juan, Sevier, South Sanpete, South Summit, Tintic and Wayne.
In January, Waterford was awarded an $11.5 million grant to expand UPSTART to Utah's rural children as part of the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition, the U.S. Department of Education's flagship grant program. Now in its fifth year, UPSTART is a free, in-home, computer-based preschool program that uses Waterford's adaptive learning curriculum and is funded by the Utah State Legislature.
As part of their involvement in the i3 program, preschool-aged children from each rural district will participate in the UPSTART program until kindergarten. After kindergarten, they will use UPSTART's adaptive curriculum during the summer months after kindergarten, first and second grade.
The five-year i3 research program aims to accomplish two goals: bridge the early learning gap for preschool-aged children in rural areas by utilizing UPSTART; and avoid the loss of learning that occurs during the summer break, known as the "summer slide," by giving the children a summer school component with the UPSTART curriculum.
"We applaud the superintendents for their enthusiasm for adding UPSTART as a solution to meet their districts' early learning needs and to give the preschool children within their districts the option of a fully supported in-home preschool program," said Claudia Miner, Waterford's vice president of development and UPSTART program director. "UPSTART is a proven program that prepares every child for kindergarten."
Since funding from the Utah Legislature began five years ago, UPSTART has reached more than 7,000 Utah children and received near perfect reviews from families who have participated in the program. Independent research shows children who participate in UPSTART enter school already above kindergarten level. The i3 grant will pay to expand the program to rural areas – a hard-to-reach but important group.
"We are excited to have districts participating in the i3 program as it will address a real need in the rural areas – giving our young children and their families educational resources that get them started on the right foot with their education," said Martell Menlove, Utah's state superintendent of public instruction. "We are eager to be part of this program to show that Utah's educational innovation is among the top in the nation, and one that other states might model in their own rural areas."
For more information about Waterford Institute and its educational products and programs, visit www.waterford.org.