The Power of Online Kindergarten Prep

A new independent study of Utah’s High-Quality School Readiness Expansion (HQSR-E) Program has found an online kindergarten prep program, Waterford UPSTART, so effective that it recommends making the program available to all children at high-quality public and private pre-K schools around the state.


Performed by the nonprofit Evaluation and Training Institute, the report found that Waterford UPSTART was particularly effective among at-risk children, closing performance gaps at a rate of 67%, 17 points higher than children only attending public pre-K schools and 21 points higher than children only attending private pre-K schools. Launched in 2009, Waterford UPSTART’s user base in Utah has grown from 1,631 students the first year to more than 14,000 in 2018. Designed to overcome barriers to traditional pre-K programs such as lack of transportation or geographic isolation, Waterford UPSTART offers school preparation in the home. The curriculum is available to anyone free of charge, and Waterford ensures access by providing free laptops and internet access to families lacking the resources to purchase them.
The Waterford UPSTART program asks students to spend 15 minutes a day, five days a week working on early literacy, math, and science lessons. The adaptive software personalizes instruction each step of the way.

Other key findings from the HQSR-E report include:

  • Waterford UPSTART was the only program to have significant positive effects on early literacy development, with an effect size of .78. That means the average Waterford UPSTART student outperformed nearly 80% of children who did not use the program.
  • 77% of Waterford UPSTART children demonstrated average or above-average literacy quotients, compared to 71% of public school attendees and 69% of private school attendees.
  • Waterford UPSTART children achieved “significantly higher” scores on subtests of critical predictors of future reading achievement, including letter knowledge, listening comprehension, and phonological awareness.
  • 77% of Waterford UPSTART children met benchmarks for listening comprehension, compared to 65% of private school children and 61% of public school children.

For more information, visit www.waterford.org/upstart/.

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