Early Learning Digest

Waterford Institute Wins $14.2 Million EIR Grant to Bring Waterford UPSTART to Five States

The nonprofit will use the Education Innovation and Research Expansion Grant to launch pilot programs for rural students in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, and Montana

(SALT LAKE CITY, UT) October 11, 2018 — Waterford Institute, the nonprofit provider of the Waterford UPSTART online kindergarten readiness program, today announced that it has been awarded an Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Expansion Grant from the United States Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement.

The EIR program supports entities that design, generate, and validate solutions to persistent educational challenges and supports the expansion of effective solutions to serve substantially larger numbers of students. Expansion grants are the largest awarded by the program and require the highest standard of outcome results to qualify.

Totaling $14.2 million, the five-year grant will enable the Waterford Institute to launch Waterford UPSTART pilot programs in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, and Montana, affording children in each of these states complimentary access to the leading kindergarten readiness program.

Parents can enroll and pre-enroll their children here: https://www.waterfordupstart.org/

“We’re honored to receive this award and grateful for the recognition of the important work we’ve been doing in Utah for a decade,” said Benjamin Heuston, the president and CEO of Waterford Institute. “Across the country, some 2.5 million 4-year-olds lack access to publicly-funded PreK, and we’re eager to put this grant to use helping the students of five more states prepare for a successful academic career, no matter where they live or what their socioeconomic background is.”

The award is based in part on Waterford’s successful execution of the previously awarded Investing in Innovation (i3) grant serving rural districts and children in Utah. Waterford UPSTART (Utah Preparing Students Today for a Rewarding Tomorrow) launched in 2009 and has grown from 1,631 participating students in that first year to more than 15,000 in 2018. The program has now expanded beyond Utah to other states whereWaterford UPSTART is used to serve Native American children, children learning English, refugee children, and urban families.

Designed to help 4- and 5-year-old children prepare for kindergarten, Waterford UPSTART offers an online curriculum including more than 2,500 free online reading, science, and math lessons, along with 360 digital books, 330 animated songs, and more than 450 instructional hours. In addition, the kindergarten readiness program includes a parent support model that coaches parents to not only use the software, but also work on offline activities with their children.

Longitudinal studies have shown that graduates of Waterford UPSTART outperform nonparticipants, regardless of demographics, and the greatest gains were seen in at-risk populations. Additionally, these sustained gains continue through the 4th grade.

Parents and other stakeholders track students’ progress with the Waterford Assessment of Core Skills, an adaptive, computer-administered assessment that generates easily understood reports on each child’s reading readiness and competence. To supplement this, the EIR grant will enable a strong external evaluation of the program as well.

Waterford UPSTART will be available to parents and students in all of the new pilot states by fall of 2019, however, enrollment has already opened for children in Wyoming.