San Juan County School District, located in the southeastern-most corner of Utah, covers a vast area of 7,500 square miles. With its beauty and solitude comes an important question: Where do the district’s youngest learners go to school?
A recent article published in the December issue of the Language Magazine, highlights this important question and shares how families in Utah’s rural districts are preparing their children “on the range.” The answer lies with UPSTART, our in-home school readiness program that gives preschool-aged children an individualized reading, math, and science curriculum.
UPSTART first started in Utah in 2009, and had 7,000 participating children during its first five years. Now, in year six, the Utah program has expanded to just over 6,000 students in this year alone, which is 15 percent of Utah’s 4-year-olds!
Results have been astounding, too. To date, children who have met the usage requirements have been assessed at the kindergarten advanced level. This means that children begin kindergarten at the ability level equivalent to students (nationwide) in the last three months of kindergarten. These gains were despite ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic locale. Caregivers of children enrolled in the program have also continually provided us with positive feedback; in fact, we’ve had parents wait in line at UPSTART graduations to tell us the good the program has done!
The success of UPSTART earned Waterford an i3 Validation grant from the federal government in late 2013 – an award that is only given to programs that have strong evidence of results. This grant made it possible for UPSTART to expand to Utah’s 18 most rural school districts, and allowed Waterford to hire an i3 liaison to represent UPSTART in each of these districts. These liaisons are just as excited as we are about this new program enhancement, and with their efforts, we are able to serve more than 920 children in rural school districts this year!
Lynea Bednarik, South Summit liaison, says: “I am so excited for this position as an UPSTART Liaison. I have become fairly familiar with the program, and I have a niece who was part of the pilot. I am passionate about children and their education. I strongly feel the need to better prepare our children for kindergarten, and I believe UPSTART can help. I can’t wait to bring this program and the assessments to our district. I look forward to seeing the growth within each child and to having the ability to measure it.”
See what other UPSTART liaisons are saying and read more about current efforts in Utah’s rural districts in the Language Magazine article found here.