Give Now

Online Pre-K Program Looks To Increase Kindergarten Readiness

  • Jackson and mom

    Image 1 of 3

    Photo: Lindsey Wright

    Danielle Reynolds and her son Jackson work on reading skills following his graduation from UPSTART.

  • Pre K shirt

    Image 2 of 3

    Photo: Lindsey Wright

    Waterford officials say the true advantage of programs like UPSTART is access.

  • computer

    Image 3 of 3

    Photo: Lindsey Wright

    Around 100 kids graduated from UPSTART through a pilot program in Floyd County.

One by one, young kids in Floyd County are graduating from their pre-K program, but it’s not traditional preschool, it’s all done online.

Jackson is one of about 100 students graduating from the home-based UPSTART program. He also attends an in-class preschool. His mom, Danielle Reynolds, was eager to try something new with him so he would be prepared for kindergarten.

“My daughter, she didn’t have a rough start, but she wasn’t maybe as prepared as I would have liked,” Reynolds says.

New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated Schools is the first district in the state to pilot UPSTART through a federal grant. The Waterford Institute in Utah develops the software, which New Albany schools also use as a reading intervention tool for K through 2nd grade classes.

That’s why Tony Duffy, the director of elementary education, says he was expecting positive results.

“We jumped at the chance because we saw what Waterford did for other students, and we knew we had an opportunity to do that with our students that are coming in,” Duffy says.

Before beginning the program, kids take an online assessment. Then, with their parents, the kids use the program at home, 15 minutes a day, five days a week, for nine months. They take the same assessment once they’ve completed the program.

  • computer wide shot

    Image 1 of 3

    Photo: Lindsey Wright

    Kids take the same online assessment before and after they've gone through the program.

  • certificate

    Image 2 of 3

    Photo: Lindsey Wright

    Around 100 kids graduated from an online Kindergarten readiness pilot program in Floyd County.

  • headphones

    Image 3 of 3

    Photo: Lindsey Wright

    The Indiana General Assembly is putting $1 million toward online pre-K efforts.

Claudia Miner, director of UPSTART, says the results of the follow up exam are compared to the exam each kid took before they began the program.

“And you might not think that was really long enough for children to learn much, but the software is so individualized that it teaches the children exactly what they need to know before they move on to the next things,” Miner says.

Currently more than 27,000 low-income four year olds don’t have access to high-quality pre-K in Indiana. Several counties have limited options or even no option.

FINAL 2017 Annual Report 1 by Indiana Public Media News on Scribd

The Indiana General Assembly is putting $1 million toward online pre-K, and it’s not exactly clear yet how the money will be distributed.

The legislation also allocates more money to the state’s On My Way Pre-K program launched two years ago, which gives pre-K scholarships to low-income kids. Some argue that the $1 million for online pre-K should be prioritized to in-class preschool. The topic sparked controversy earlier this year.

“An online pre-K program can help a child develop specific skills, say in letter identification or numeracy,” says Early Learning Indiana President and CEO Ted Maple. “But it cannot provide the same depth and breadth of skills a child will get from a high quality classroom-based experience.”

Maple says online pre-K simply can’t provide kids with some of the critical social skills, for example, that are necessary for development.

Waterford officials acknowledge that, but say the true advantage of programs like UPSTART is access.

“It’s all about the access. We are not here to replace anything,” Miner says. “We know how valuable site-based and high quality early education is, but some people can’t get there, some people can’t afford it.”

“It cannot provide the same depth and breadth of skills a child will get from a high quality classroom-based experience.”

—Ted Maple, President and CEO, Early Learning Indiana

Miner says it is best to pair the program with a site-based preschool. However, the most important goal is for the child to be kindergarten ready.

“If you can’t get your four year old to school, or if the district doesn’t have transportation, or if you’re so rural that you don’t have a site-based program, this will get the kids ready to go to school,” Miner says. “It’s called kindergarten readiness, not preschool.”

Reynolds says she fully expects Jackson to have an easy transition into Kindergarten because of UPSTART.

“Two, three, four months into it, you’re kind of like, ‘OK we really have to spend every night doing this’, but it’s worth it because I’ve seen the things, I’ve seen the growth, I’ve seen what he’s learned,” Reynolds says.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media News:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search News

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

Follow us on Twitter

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media News:

Recent Education Stories

Recent Videos

Find Us on Facebook