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Registration Underway for UPSTART At-Home Kindergarten Readiness Program

            Cleburne ISD is adding to its educational initiatives for early learners in offering an at-home kindergarten readiness program for families residing within the district’s boundaries.

            Following approval by Trustees at the November 18 school board meeting, the Waterford UPSTART program will be made available at no cost for up to 50 families. The program will provide personalized learning—at home—for four-year-olds.

            “We believe this is a unique—and effective—way to reach the four-year-olds in our district who would have met the state qualifications for pre-kindergarten or barely missed qualifying,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Andrea Hensley said. “These children are the first priority for our UPSTART initiative. There may also be opportunities to include families that do not meet the state qualifying criteria who have an interest in UPSTART for their child.”

            UPSTART focuses on 15-minute lessons and activities in reading and math to be utilized five days a week. The program curriculum is aligned with Texas Education Agency guidelines for pre-kindergarten. Learning strategies and resources will range from books, animated songs and activities utilizing instructional technology, with a computer and Internet access provided to participating families. The goal of the program is to promote individualized learning for students, building on their strength, knowledge and skills. Students will be able to work independently as they progress through the UPSTART lesson cycles.

            “Engaging children in our district who are not benefiting from a form of early learning is something we believe is vital,” Hensley said. “This is not intended to compete with our pre-kindergarten program, but rather serve additional children. This new effort will have more students ready for kindergarten. Rather than starting out with varied levels of learning experience, we will have students who are more likely to be on the same page in reading and math skills. This could be a game-changer for our early learning program and our school district.”

            “Based on enrollment in Pre-K and kindergarten, there’s a difference of 163 students who could have benefited from early learning,” Hensley said. “Many of these children may attend private programs or have parents using a home-based program. We just want to do all we can to reach the children we will be serving as early as we can.”

            Parents who register their four-year-olds for Cleburne’s UPSTART will be paired with a family education liaison who will be available for questions, monitor their child’s learning progress and provide weekly emails with updates on skills achieved. A weekly usage graph is included in the reports to parents.

            “Having an education liaison assigned to each of our UPSTART families is a very important program piece,” Hensley said. “From answering questions to assisting with software issues—and serving as an encourager--makes this program very ‘parent-friendly,’ The first teacher and mentor in a child’s life is the parent and UPSTART provides the tools and support for that.”

            School Board President John Finnell, who is an advocate for early learning, is pleased to see the addition of an in-home readiness program for Cleburne pre-schoolers. Trustees unanimously approved the funding of UPSTART at their November meeting.

            “The earlier we can get to kids, the sooner we can address reading and learning skills. If we begin this program in January, we can see its impact on kindergarten in the upcoming school year,” Finnell said. “We hope this program provides some equity in having all students ready for kindergarten.”

            A campaign is underway to inform CISD families of the UPSTART opportunity. Information in English and Spanish will be going home with students, and program representatives will be in attendance at school and community events in the coming weeks.  Registration for UPSTART will begin in January, followed by parent training. UPSTART students will be engaged in home instruction over a nine-month period, ending in August. At their “graduation” from the program, students will undergo the Waterford Assessment of Core Skills, an adaptive computer-administered test to evaluate their readiness for kindergarten.

            For more information on the Cleburne UPSTART initiative contact Christy Burton, CISD director of world languages, 817-202-1100 or Information can also be found at