Closing the Achievement Gap: Wisconsin State Leaders Focus on Early Learners

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State provides funding to an education nonprofit in hopes of closing the gap in six districts

(Madison, WI) June 29, 2021 — For years, the state of Wisconsin has struggled to address the achievement gap between white and black students, which, according to The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), is the worst in the nation. Research shows, in order to avoid an achievement gap, it has to be addressed early. That’s why the Department of Public Instruction is partnering with the nonprofit Waterford.org to provide the award-winning Waterford Upstart program to low-income families with 4-year-old children in six districts across the state.

“Wisconsin has the worst racial achievement gap in the nation, and this program should help address this issue,” said Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, Assembly Committee on Education Chairman and the lead Assembly author of the legislation establishing the funding for Waterford Upstart. “I am pleased that this legislation was signed into law with broad, bipartisan support, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact the Waterford Upstart program will have for Wisconsin children.”

“Our kids are falling behind. The achievement gap in too many school districts is appalling,” said State Senator Alberta Darling, lead Senate author of the legislation establishing the funding for Waterford Upstart. “Innovative programs like Waterford Upstart will help us close the achievement gap and help provide a solid base for children to show up ready to learn when they reach kindergarten.”

A bipartisan group of legislators funded an early learning pilot program, which was awarded by the Wisconsin Department of Instruction to Waterford.org. The program will provide an early learning solution in three urban and three rural school districts with persistent reading gaps: Green Bay Area Public School District, Racine Unified School District, Milwaukee Public Schools, Lac du Flambeau #1 School District, North Crawford School District, and Siren School District. The state will appropriate $500,000 in legislative funds annually for the program, while Waterford.org will provide a total of $500,000 in matching funds during the three-year contract period.

“We are excited to partner with the state of Wisconsin to help close the achievement gap. Reaching children early is the best way to help all students succeed, and our program removes many of the barriers families face when it comes to early learning. We believe this will bring much-needed equity to the areas we are serving,” said Dr. Claudia Miner, Executive Director and Co-founder of Waterford Upstart.

Registration for Fall 2021 is now open, but spots are limited and restrictions apply. Parents with children entering kindergarten in 2022 can register by calling 1-888-982-9898 or by logging on to WaterfordUpstart.org.

Waterford Upstart

Waterford Upstart helps four-year-old children prepare for school at home and at no cost. Children develop foundational reading and social-emotional skills, and families are empowered to become their child’s first and most influential teachers. The children use adaptive software just 15 minutes a day, five days a week in the year before they start school. Waterford Upstart also fuels family involvement in their child’s early education through family coaches and fun educational activities parents can complete with their children offline. Waterford Upstart has been rigorously tested and proven, earning the program a federal EIR grant and the title of a TED Audacious project. Independent research shows the average Waterford Upstart graduate enters kindergarten reading at nearly a first-grade level and maintains those gains through the fourth grade.

Waterford.org

Waterford.org is an early 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. We empower parents as a child’s first teacher, and we support teachers in taking the right actions at the right time for their students. In total, Waterford.org serves more than 300,000 children every year through all of our programs, and that number is continually growing.

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