Indiana weighs virtual preschool program
- Indiana legislators are considering a $2 million investment in an early education software that would give all families in the state access to kindergarten-prep software, an initiative that is modeled after one in Utah.
- Utah's state-funded UPSTART program uses technology to ensure free access to early childhood education for every student in the state, and includes access to loaner devices for students who may not have access to technology at home.
- There is a bit of controversy surrounding the proposal, which seeks to boost engagement with early childhood education for low-income families. A preschool voucher program in five counties intended to do the same isn't keeping up with demand,
Research has confirmed that the achievement gap starts as early as kindergarten. Students who don't have access to formal early childhood programs — typically low-income students — often enter school behind their peers in literacy and math skills and other subjects, and the deficit often grows with each successive year. One frustration of many teachers is that students come to them at the start of lower grades already behind, but are judged on fixed proficiency levels that don't account for any growth during the year. Particularly in states where important decisions like school funding or closure and teacher pay and bonuses are based on school performance, this model keeps these schools perpetually behind.
Technology can be a great way to close the gaps, as long as consideration is given to access to technology. Utah's program, which gives students devices to take home in cases where they don't have one, is a model other states should consider when weighing a virtual early childhood program.
Follow Autumn A. Arnett on Twitter