SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Waterford Institute was recently awarded $11.5 million from the Investing in Innovation (i3) 2013 federal grant competition for its early education curriculum and in-home preschool program UPSTART.
The U.S. Department of Education awarded a total of $134 million in 2013 for i3, its flagship grant program, which is designed to find and expand innovative educational practices that improve student achievement. Waterford Institute, a Sandy, Utah-based nonprofit research and education technology center, was one of just 25 grant recipients selected from a pool of 618 applicants and the only elementary and early childhood program in the nation to receive this year's i3 validation grant award.
"Receiving the i3 award is both an honor and tribute to the quality and effectiveness of our UPSTART program in Utah," said Dr. Benjamin Heuston, president of Waterford Institute. "This program illustrates our long partnership with both Utah Legislators and the Utah State Office of Education in bringing innovative technology programs to the forefront of both the state and the nation. We are very happy to bring these funds into Utah to benefit our rural school districts and the economy. Our nonprofit business model makes this a big win for Utah."
Waterford Institute ranked among the top seven awardees in the more rigorous validation grant category. To win a place in the validation category, Waterford successfully demonstrated student gains through a published, third-party external evaluation of its UPSTART program, which is now in its fifth year.
"One of the exciting aspects of this i3 grant is that it is perfectly compatible with the current UPSTART program," explained Dr. Claudia Miner, VP of Development and UPSTART Program Director. "UPSTART, funded by Utah State Legislature, has had more than 90 percent of its participants from Utah's urban and suburban communities. The i3 grant, funded by the Federal Department of Education, is uniquely targeted to Utah's 18 rural school districts where we have long wanted to increase UPSTART's availability and impact."
The i3 project will combine the same, proven UPSTART solution with a summer school component to help children avoid the loss of learning that occurs during the summer break, known as the "summer slide." According to one Johns Hopkins University study, the summer slide accounts for two-thirds of the achievement gap between students who fall below the poverty level and those who do not.
Dr. Miner said the UPSTART program is positioned for great success within rural districts because it is an in-home program.
"We have 4-year-olds in rural Utah who would have to travel a significant distance—if transportation were even available to have a traditional preschool experience in a building. In that light, it is easy to understand why our rural parents need a different option." Dr. Miner explains, "Without that option, children may miss a critical window of cognitive learning and development. Ultimately many of these children could find themselves facing an achievement gap that is too great to overcome, even with the best remedial resources."
UPSTART brings the cognitive learning vital to student and long-term success into the home in just 15 minutes a day, five days a week. It also provides intensive support that includes technical support and weekly reporting and learning coaching for parents and caregivers in their native language to ensure each child's usage and progress.
The i3 program will go a step further: For preschool and the summers after kindergarten, first, and second grade, this group of students will use the Waterford Early Learning adaptive software curriculum. Student progress will be evaluated throughout the course of the five-year project.
"The home can play a crucial role in children's education, and technology can transform the home into an exciting and successful environment uniquely individualized to serve each child's learning needs," said Dr. Martell Menlove, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. "The Utah State Office of Education and Utah rural school districts are dedicated to working with Waterford on this i3 project."
In addition to forging government partnerships, Waterford has also partnered with other nonprofits and private entities to bring the grant to Utah. The Rural School and Community Trust is one of the project's most significant supporters. An estimated 30% of the nation's student population live in rural areas throughout the country. Based on the effectiveness of the UPSTART i3 project in Utah's rural areas, this project has the potential to expand to other states and make a significant impact in the accessibility to quality education for rural preschoolers.
"We are seeing an unprecedented amount of support coming from the public and private sector to bring Waterford's Early Learning solutions to more children," said Dr. Heuston. "This is an exciting time in Waterford's 37-year history of bringing excellence and equity to children."
Waterford Institute is a nonprofit research center that creates personalized cloud-based instruction through award-winning curriculum, content and assessment for children aged Pre-K to 3rd grade. As a nonprofit, Waterford is uniquely focused on providing accessibility, equity and excellence for our youngest learners to position them for a lifetime of learning and success.
For more information, visit www.waterford.org or call 801-349-2200.
SOURCE Waterford Institute