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← A new way to get every child ready for kindergarten

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Showing Revision 7 created 07/18/2019 by Brian Greene.

  1. I'm an historian.
  2. And what I love about being an historian
    is it gives you perspective.
  3. Today, I'd like to bring that perspective
    to education in the United States.

  4. About the only thing people can agree on
  5. is that the most strategic time
    for a child to start learning
  6. is early.
  7. Over 50 years ago,
  8. there was a watershed moment
    in early education in the US
  9. called "Head Start."
  10. Now, historians love watersheds
  11. because it makes it so easy
    to talk about what came before
  12. and what's happened since.
  13. Before Head Start, basically nothing.
  14. With Head Start,
  15. we began to get our nation's
    most at-risk children ready for school.
  16. Since Head Start, we've made strides,

  17. but there are still
    2.2 million children in the US
  18. without access to early learning,
  19. or more than half of
    the four-year-olds in the country.
  20. That's a problem.
  21. But the bigger problem is what we know
    happens to those children.
  22. At-risk children who reach school
    without basic skills
  23. are 25 percent more likely to drop out,
  24. 40 percent more likely
    to become teen parents
  25. and 60 percent less likely
    to go to college.
  26. So if we know how important
    early education is,

  27. why aren't all children getting it?
  28. There are barriers that the solutions
    we've come up with to date
  29. simply can't overcome.
  30. Geography: think rural and remote.
  31. Transportation: think
    working parents everywhere.
  32. Parent choice: no state requires
    a four-year-old to go to school.
  33. And cost: the average cost for a state
    to educate a preschooler
  34. is five thousand dollars a year.
  35. So am I just going
    to keep talking about problems?

  36. No.
  37. Today, I want to tell you about
    a cost-effective, technology-delivered,
  38. kindergarten-readiness program
    that can be done in the home.
  39. It's called UPSTART,
  40. and more than 60,000 preschoolers
    in the US have already used it.
  41. Now, I know what you might be thinking:

  42. here's another person throwing tech
    at a national problem.
  43. And you'd be partially right.
  44. We develop early learning software
    designed to individualize instruction,
  45. so children can learn at their own pace.
  46. To do that, we rely on experts from fields
    ranging from reading to sociology
  47. to brain science development
    to all aspects of early learning,
  48. to tell us what the software
    should do and look like.
  49. Here's an example.

  50. (Video) Zero (sings
    to the tune of "Day-O"): Zero!

  51. Zero!
  52. Zero is the number
    that's different from the others.
  53. Seagulls: Zero is a big, round "O."
  54. Zero: It's not like one,
    I'm sure you'll discover.
  55. Seagulls: Zero is a big, round "O."
  56. (Laughter)

  57. Claudia Miner: That is "The Zero Song."

  58. (Laughter)

  59. And here are Odd Todd and Even Steven
    to teach you some things about numbers.

  60. And here are the Word Birds,
  61. and they're going to show you
    when you blend letter sounds together,
  62. you can form words.
  63. You can see that instruction
    is short, colorful and catchy,
  64. designed to capture a child's attention.
  65. But there's another piece to UPSTART
  66. that makes it different
    and more effective.
  67. UPSTART puts parents in charge
    of their children's education.
  68. We believe, with the right support,
  69. all parents can get their children
    ready for school.
  70. Here's how it works.

  71. This is the kindergarten readiness
    checklist from a state.
  72. And almost every state has one.
  73. We go to parents wherever they are,
  74. and we conduct a key
    in-person group training.
  75. And we tell them the software can check
    every reading, math and science box,
  76. but they're going to be responsible
    for motor skills and self-help skills,
  77. and together, we're going to work
    on social emotional learning.
  78. Now, we know this is working

  79. because we have a 90-percent
    completion rate for the program.
  80. Last year, that translated
    into 13,500 children
  81. "graduating," with diplomas, from UPSTART.
  82. And the results have been amazing.
  83. We have an external evaluation
  84. that shows our children
    have two to three times the learning gains
  85. as children who don't
    participate in the program.
  86. We have a random control trial that shows
    strong evidence of effectiveness,
  87. and we even have a longitudinal study
  88. that shows our children's gains
    last into third and fourth grade,
  89. the highest grades the children
    had achieved at the time.
  90. Those are academic gains.
  91. But another study has shown
    that our children's social emotional gains
  92. are equal to those of children
    attending public and private preschool.
  93. The majority of the 60,000 children
    who have participated in UPSTART to date

  94. have been from Utah.
  95. But we have replicated our results
  96. with African-American
    children in Mississippi --
  97. this is Kingston and his mother;
  98. with English language
    learners in Arizona --
  99. this is Daisy and her family;
  100. with refugee children in Philadelphia --
    this is my favorite graduation photo;
  101. and with Native American children
  102. from some of the most remote
    parts of the United States.
  103. This is Cherise, and this is
    where she lives in Monument Valley.
  104. Now, there are skeptics about UPSTART.

  105. Some people don't believe young children
    should have screen time.
  106. To them, we say:
  107. UPSTART's usage requirement
    of 15 minutes a day, five days a week,
  108. is well within the hour-a-day recommended
    by the American Academy of Pediatrics
  109. for four-year-olds.
  110. Some people believe
    only site-based preschool can work,
  111. and to them, we say:
    site-based preschool is great,
  112. but if you can't get a child there
    or if a parent won't send a child there,
  113. isn't a technology-delivered,
    results-based option a great alternative?
  114. And we love working
    with site-based preschools.
  115. Right now, there are
    800 children in Mississippi
  116. going to Head Start during the day
  117. and doing UPSTART at night
    with their families.
  118. Our audacious idea is to take UPSTART
    across the country --

  119. not to replace anything;
  120. we want to serve children who otherwise
    would not have access to early education.
  121. We have the guts to take on the skeptics,
  122. we have the energy to do the work,
  123. and we have a plan.
  124. It is the role of the states
    to educate their children.
  125. So first we will use philanthropy dollars
  126. to go into a state to pilot
    the program and get data.
  127. Every state believes it's unique
  128. and wants to know that the program
    will work with its children
  129. before investing.
  130. Then we identify key leaders in the state
    to help us champion UPSTART
  131. as an option for unserved children.
  132. And together, we go to state legislatures
  133. to transition UPSTART from philanthropy
  134. to sustainable and scalable state funding.
  135. That plan has worked --
  136. (Applause)

  137. Thanks.

  138. Thank you.
  139. That plan has worked
    in three states to date:

  140. Utah, Indiana and South Carolina.
  141. We've also piloted the program
    in a number of states
  142. and identified champions.
  143. Next, we're moving to states
    with the greatest geographic barriers
  144. to work the plan,
  145. and then on to states
    that already have early education
  146. but may not be getting
    great academic results
  147. or great parent buy-in to participate.
  148. From there, we go to the states
  149. that are going to require the most data
    and work to convince,
  150. and we'll hope our momentum
    helps turn the tide there.
  151. We will serve a quarter of a million
    children in five years,
  152. and we will ensure that states continue
    to offer UPSTART to their children.
  153. Here's how you can help:

  154. for two thousand dollars,
  155. we can provide a child
    with UPSTART, a computer and internet,
  156. and that child will be part of the pilot
  157. that makes certain other children
    get UPSTART in the future.
  158. We also need engaged citizens
    to go to their government
  159. and say just how easy it can be
    to get children ready for school.
  160. You wouldn't be here
    if you weren't an engaged citizen,
  161. so we're asking for your help.
  162. Now, will all of us this make UPSTART
    a watershed moment in early education?

  163. I believe together we can make it one.
  164. But I can tell you without a doubt
  165. that UPSTART is a watershed moment
  166. in the life of a child who otherwise
    would not be ready for school.
  167. Thank you.

  168. (Applause)