Early Learning Digest

Study: Ohio Early Education Pilot Shows Gains Across the Board

"UPSTART was really helpful in determining the biggest areas of need and weakness in my son’s learning! I love that the program met him where he was academically while still challenging him to push himself harder."

 

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS:

Waterford UPSTART is an at-home, online program that combines our adaptive learning software with a parent support program to prepare children for kindergarten. The program includes computers and Internet for families who qualify.

In Ohio, we partnered with the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD) and enrolled families in 74 cities and towns across the state with a focus on bringing early education opportunities to more children in rural and low-income areas.

The results:

  • Ohio Waterford UPSTART participants scored ‘beyond mastery’ for every subskill tested—phonics, phonological awareness, comprehension and vocabulary and language concepts.
  • Ohio UPSTART children in the pilot averaged more usage (82 minutes a week) of the program than what was required (80 minutes a week). A key indicator that the program is popular with children and their families.
  • 100% of parents of the Ohio UPSTART children participants answered that it prepared their child for kindergarten in a post-pilot survey.

With four children at home and a busy schedule, Chantay Stigall knew she needed help to prepare her son Jackson for kindergarten.

“Waterford actually steps in and helps me keep Jackson on track of where he needs to be,” she says. “I feel like the UPSTART program gives that special attention to him that I can’t because I’m so busy with my other three.”

Jackson was one of nearly 170 preschool-age children who participated in our first-ever Ohio UPSTART program this year—a pilot program that according to a new research report, helped children like Jackson see significant gains in literacy skills.

UPSTART is an at-home online program that combines our adaptive learning software with a parent support program to prepare children for kindergarten. The program includes computers and Internet for families who qualify. To date, it’s reached more than 30,000 preschool-age children in Utah, where the program was first adopted by the state, and more than 700 children in six other states.

In Ohio, we partnered with the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD) and enrolled families in 74 cities and towns across the state with a focus on bringing early education opportunities to more children in rural and low-income areas.

“There are so few opportunities for the children in this region for early childhood experiences,” Maureen Boggs, early care and education division director at COAD, says. “In the state of Ohio, we have many children for every slot of early childhood programming that’s available.”

Ohio UPSTART Results

Children take WACS test at end of Ohio pilot

Today, we’re excited to share results of a study that shows Ohio children who participated in the pilot saw positive gains across all early literacy skills tested.

At the start of the Ohio program, children were assessed using the Waterford Assessments of Core Skills as a baseline for evaluation. Then, after using the program for nine months, children were assessed a second time using the same test.

Ohio children averaged 82 minutes on the program each week—more than the required 80 minutes and a key indicator of strong parent involvement with the program.

“The first step is making sure families are engaged and participating,” Claudia Miner, UPSTART program director, said. “That’s where our family support program and coaches come in—to encourage and engage the whole family. We know that if they use it they will see positive results.”

Research also shows it’s important to engage parents in their child’s education early as a means to encourage them to stay involved in their child’s later K-12 educational experiences.

Overall, the assessments showed gains across the board with children, on average, scoring higher on all of the literacy skills tested after using UPSTART.

Ohio WACS scores by substrand

Additional subskills—phonics, phonological awareness, comprehension and vocabulary, and language concepts—also showed promising results. A score of 80 or higher within Waterford’s reading program represents mastery, which is the goal of the cognitively-based program. Mastery is the basis for more advanced learning, especially the transition from pre-reading skills to reading.

On average, Ohio UPSTART participants scored above 80—or beyond mastery—for every subskill tested. What’s more, 159 out of 166 students had an overall reading score of 80 or higher. The average overall score was 88.59.

Average strand scores for ERP

“Waterford and UPSTART levels the playing field for families who might never have access to the kinds of information, technology and learning that the UPSTART program offers,” Boggs says.

In post-pilot surveys, parents gave the program glowing reviews. When asked if they thought UPSTART was helpful in preparing their child for kindergarten, 100 percent answered yes. “There is nothing more amazing than watching your barely 5-year-old READ words,” one parent wrote.

Another parent shared this funny story: “While trying to be sneaky, I spelled out a word in conversation. It shocked me when she sounded it out and then shouted what I had spelled. That’s the moment when I knew, UPSTART works!”

Waterford is now seeking funding support to help continue the Ohio program. Read the full report or find more details on the program, including interviews with families who participated, in this overview video.