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i3 Preschool Study

UPSTART is a home-based preschool program that uses computer software designed by the Waterford Institute to provide preschool-age children with individualized reading instruction. We used a randomized-control trial research study to compare measures of early reading from children randomly assigned to use UPSTART reading software to students who did not use it, and we found strong empirical evidence of its effectiveness preparing preschool students to enter Kindergarten.


Our Preschool Study findings were made public in March, 2017, and we have submitted the results to the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) and presented the findings to national conferences (AERA, 2017; ISTE, 2018). A summary of the program impacts includes: Children in UPSTART Reading had higher scores on letter recognition, phoneme manipulation, phonological awareness, and ability to decode common words and pre-primer vocabulary compared to their counterparts enrolled in UPSTART Math. There were no differences between the two groups on subtests that measured visual or auditory discrimination, oral comprehension, vocabulary, and oral language.


A comprehensive set of findings will be submitted to the National Evaluation of i3 (NEi3) at the end of grant.


  • Hobbs, L.J., & Overby, M. (2019). Impact of UPSTART Reading Participation on Preschooler's Early Literacy Skills.

  • Hobbs, L., J., Overby, M., & Thomas, A. (2018). The impact of UPSTART Reading participation while controlling for prior learning and school district.

  • Overby, M., Hobbs, L., J., & Thomas, A. (April 2017). Evaluating the impact of the i3 UPSTART project on rural preschoolers’ early literacy skills. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Antonio, TX. 

  • Hobbs, L. J. and Overby, M. (2017). Benefits of Being a Control: Early Math Development in UPSTART Control Students. Manuscript in preparation.

  • Overby, M., & Hobbs, L. J. (2016). Means comparison of children enrolled in UPSTART Reading and UPSTART Math on early literacy outcomes.

  • Hobbs, L.J., & Overby, M. (2016). Rural UPSTART Preschool Study: Preliminary Evaluation Results for Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant U411B130020.

  • Overby, M., & Thomas, A. (2016). Rural UPSTART Program Evaluation Year 2 Summary Report.

  • Overby, M., & Thomas, A. (2015). Rural UPSTART Program Evaluation Year 1 Summary Report.

Papers and presentations are available. For more information, contact: 

Jon Hobbs, Ph.D. 

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