Waterford.org Awarded $13.9M Grant to Expand Early Education Success in Rural Southern States


Taylorsville, UT – December 5, 2023Waterford.org, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing early education, proudly announces the awarding of a $13.9 million Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Waterford received bipartisan support from federal legislators in securing this grant, which is focused on expanding school readiness in rural communities across 16 southern states.

This initiative builds on Waterford’s successful partnership with the Department of Education in five Western states, employing evidence-based solutions to address rural community needs. This initiative aims to expand on this strategy by fostering genuine community partnerships with an ultimate goal of developing a scalable blueprint that enhances student achievement.

The Upstart Rural TASK Force, spearheaded by Waterford.org, will research the impact of early learning in thousands of students from PreK through 2nd grade across Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

“Our focus is to ensure that every child, no matter their location, has access to quality early education,” stated Rebecca Kelley, Head of Advocacy and Community Engagement. “This study ensures we continue to scale evidence-based programs and advance equity through early learning.”

While the Department of Ed. provided $13.9 million, the project totalling $15.3 million will be spread across five years, aligning with the EIR Program’s mission to support innovative solutions that significantly improve student achievement and attainment. The EIR award will expand the work of Waterford.org which has received investments from Blue Meridian Partners, Valhalla, Overdeck Family Foundation and Yield Giving. Waterford is also grateful for the transformational support from The Audacious Project, an initiative of TED, which continues to position the organization for success.

Partners for Rural Impact, a fellow Blue Meridian Partner grantee, are working to ensure children in rural communities have access to economic mobility, are partnering with Waterford on this project.

“At Partners for Rural Impact (PRI), we know that far too often children in rural areas lack adequate access to critical early childhood programs that will help prepare them to excel from the very start of their academic journey,” said Dreama Gentry, CEO and President. “We are incredibly grateful for the vision and longstanding commitment Waterford has had to bring their evidence-based programs to even the hardest-to-reach kids, thus helping to put kids in rural America on a more equitable playing field. We are thrilled to partner with Waterford on this project, ensuring that more kids in rural America have the tools they need to succeed.”

Waterford’s evidence-based approach to delivering personalized learning in reading, math and science, complemented by family support, has been thoroughly vetted through third-party research, including Tier 1 recognition by What Works Clearinghouse.

The American Institutes for Research® (AIR), a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization dedicated to behavioral and social science research, joins this endeavor as the evaluation partner. Reflecting a shared vision with Waterford.org, AIR aims to ensure equitable access to high-quality learning experiences for all children.

“AIR is excited to collaborate with Waterford as their evaluation partner,” said Eboni Howard, Ph.D., Managing Researcher at AIR. “Both organizations hold dear a common vision: that all children should have equitable access to high-quality learning experiences. We are thrilled that our rigorous research approaches will help support the implementation of the Waterford Upstart Program, understand the impact of this promising and innovative approach and help achieve that shared vision.”

Visit the Waterford.org website for more information about Waterford programs and potential collaboration opportunities.

Media Contact:
Kim Fischer
Executive Vice President of Marketing & Communication


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