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MADISON – The State of Wisconsin has renewed its funding for an at-home Pre-K learning program through Waterford Upstart. Funding has been approved for the six districts in which achievement gaps are the greatest, including Racine Unified School District (RUSD).

Data from recent months has shown – though sample sizes were limited – significant achievement gaps throughout Wisconsin schools on standardized tests. In an effort to close that gap, Waterford Upstart, a program through Waterford.org, aims to help children who are entering Kindergarten begin their school careers “prepared and confident to receive instruction on the first day of school,” according to a news release.

“Reaching children early is the best way to help them succeed,” said Kim Fischer, the national spokesperson for Waterford.org. “Our partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is removing many of the barriers families face when it comes to early learning. We look forward to more equitable outcomes across the state for qualifying families.”

State leaders have continued funding to give another 1,000 Wisconsin children access to this at-home, early education program at no cost. Components of this no-cost program include a computer and internet access for families who are in need, as well as a personal coach to keep families and students on the right track.

Waterford Upstart was built to prepare 4-year-old children for kindergarten while at home during their last year before starting school. Within the program, families are provided with appropriate tools to help them take on the role of guiding their children towards kindergarten readiness. “The program provides positive parent-child interactions while delivering personalized, online instruction that is fun and engaging,” explained a spokesperson.

Waterford Upstart by the numbers

  • 15/5 – Children will spend 15 minutes each day, five days per week, learning to read.
  • 15 – Another 15 minutes per day can be spent on math and science instruction, if desired.
  • 92% – The percentage of Waterford Upstart graduates that are ready for kindergarten upon entry. This is in comparison to:
    • 65% – nationwide average of kindergarten readiness
    • 48% – average for those who qualify for free/reduced price meals in school
  • 1st Grade – average reading level of Waterford Upstart graduates upon entering kindergarten

“We’re happy to see the state extend the partnership with Waterford.org,” said Amy Shepherd, the director of early learning for the Racine Unified School District. “Our district believes early education is an important part of a child’s success in school, and Waterford Upstart has been a helpful tool for families in our community. Not only does it provide an educational component, but the personalized coaching helps families to be engaged and successful in the Waterford Upstart program.”

Register for Waterford Upstart

Families that have children who will be entering kindergarten in the fall of 2023 are encouraged to register now.

Other districts included in this effort are the Green Bay Area Public School District, Milwaukee Public Schools, Lac du Flambeau No. 1 School District, North Crawford School District, and Siren School District.

About Waterford.org

Waterford.org is an education nonprofit with a mission to achieve universal literacy for children through equity, access, and parent empowerment. Waterford develops educational tools that guide students along adaptive, individualized learning paths toward fluent reading and lifelong learning. Waterford empowers parents as a child’s first teacher and supports teachers in taking the right actions at the right time for their students. Currently, Waterford.org serves over 300,000 children across 43 states every year. Waterford.org is a BBB Accredited Charity with programs supported by a variety of governmental and philanthropic organizations, including support from a federal EIR grant, The Studio @ Blue Meridian, and TED’s Audacious Project.


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