For the second year in a row, Montana will be one of 12 states included in a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education to implement Waterford Upstart, an online early education program to support rural students before they enter kindergarten.
Created by the Utah State Legislator in 2009, Waterford Upstart is an in-home pre-education software designed to support students that may not have access to early education materials required to properly prepare them for kindergarten.
Children will complete 15 minutes a day, five days a week, an online personalized curriculum that adapts to students’ needs in the subjects of reading or math and science. The program is at no cost and both computers as well as the Internet are included if necessary.
Families can receive coaching through a live representative to help support their students not just while participating in the program but give advice for activities and support offline as well.
Kim Fischer, vice president of communication for Waterford Upstart, said it’s vital for children during their formative years to receive as much support as possible before entering kindergarten to stay on pace with the rest of their classmates.
“When children walk in behind and they realize they don’t know what their peers do, it affects their confidence right away,” said Fischer. “If they can’t get caught up it is really hard for them to catch up, and if by third grade they are not reading at grade level, research shows that they are very likely to not catch up. It’s vitally important that children enter kindergarten ready and confident and that is what our program provides.”
The Education Innovation and Research grant helped expand Waterford Upstart last year to five additional Western states including Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“The reason they focused on these states is because there was no state-funded early education program in these states,” Fischer said. “They wanted to bring our program to these states to see if it would help boost early education and get kids ready for kindergarten.”
Last year, the program included 220 students across the state with 76.9% of participants living in rural areas. After completing the program, results found that out of a scale of 100 students, 83.5% of them had an overall math and science score of 80 or higher, which indicates mastery of a subject.
This year the program is looking to expand to 400 students beginning at the start of September. Although spots are limited, applicants who have children going into kindergarten in 2022 can apply at www.waterfordupstart.org