Despite COVID-19 pandemic, South Carolina Schools help hundreds prepare for kindergarten


Results show the average Waterford Upstart graduate entered kindergarten at a “Kindergarten Intermediate” level

(Columbia, SC) January 12, 2021 — When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. and brought many traditional early education options to a halt, 18 South Carolina school districts, with the help of the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE), were able to continue to successfully educate their youngest learners thanks to a partnership with the early education nonprofit,, and the Waterford Upstart Family Engagement Program.

Today the results of the 2019-2020 Waterford Upstart pilot program were released, showing the average South Carolina program graduate entered kindergarten at a “Kindergarten Intermediate” level—which is where most children score mid-point during their kindergarten year.

“It is imperative that our youngest learners be prepared for success by the time they enter school doors as kindergartners,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “The partnership with has helped ensure that high-quality personalized instruction was delivered to students and families despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The results are a testament to the dedication our districts, teachers, staff members, and families have shown to our students when they have needed it the most.”

A total of 1,774 preschool-aged children from 129 classrooms across 18 different school districts in the state took part in the Waterford Upstart pilot. Through this innovative program, the districts were able to provide personalized online instruction and positive parent-interaction in the home, as well as differentiated instruction in the classroom. And, when the coronavirus shut down many South Carolina schools, children in the program were able to continue their education in the safety of their home.

The Waterford Upstart program included 15-20 minutes of personalized learning at home, five days a week. Families in the program were given the tools they needed to help their children succeed, including a parent coach, a computer, and internet access at no cost.

Additional findings of the 2019-2020 program include:

  • 80% of children scored at “Kindergarten Beginning” or above—demonstrating strong school readiness outcomes.
  • Children’s outcomes averaged at the “First Grade Beginning” level for five out of the ten subtests, including non-words, sight words, real words, reading comprehension, and vocabulary.
  • From October 2019 to May 2020, there was a 4,878% increase in students who were classified in the Pre-Reading 3 Level—from 9 students in October to 448 students in May.

This year, the Waterford Upstart program is being made available to 1,800 South Carolina students. To learn more about how the Waterford Upstart program works, click here. 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, serves more than 300,000 children every year through all of our programs, and that number is continually growing.

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 parents 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 parent 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.


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