Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Program aims to erase gap in early education

Kevin and Kristen Remington knew that they wanted a top preschool education before their children began public school. But with limited preschool options in the Uintah Basin, they, like many parents in rural Utah, found their choices were limited.

That is until Kristen Remington discovered an at-home early childhood education program called Upstart. Now, three children later, the Remingtons say the Upstart program was crucial to their children’s current academic success.

The good news, they said, is that the program is free and available to Uintah Basin parents. That can be a tremendous benefit to parents in Utah, where a Pre-K education isn’t mandated.

Traditionally, students in rural areas have entered public school significantly behind students in more highly-populated areas.

The rural nature of Utah, where schools are literally few and far between, when compounded with the poverty prevalent in many areas of the Basin, means that rural children often start public school at a significant disadvantage.

That’s why Utah is taking steps to encourage in-home preschool education, especially for rural areas like in Duchesne or Uintah Counties, said Claudia Miner, program director for Upstart, a free at-home preschool education curriculum.

Children who are behind during the first years of school often tend to learn slower than students who begin ahead, according to research by economist James Heckman.

Heckman notes that the phenomenon creates a “Matthew effect” for reading skills, in which the academically rich become richer, and the academically poor become poorer.

Upstart is aimed at erasing that deficit by putting those pre-K opportunities into the home.

Kristen Remington said the program is free to parents because it is funded by a federal grant, can grow more as more people sign up. Uintah Basin Standard