North Dakota Families: Pandemic-Proof Early Education Program Available to 4-year-olds


Waterford Upstart is available to North Dakota families for free thanks to federal grant

(Bismarck, ND) March 23, 2021 — For the third year, North Dakota families can prepare their children for kindergarten at home, at no cost. The United States Department of Education awarded the nonprofit organization an Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Expansion Grant with a goal of finding solutions to rural educational challenges in five western states through the Waterford Upstart program.

“In the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, an at-home solution like Waterford Upstart has proven to be not only effective in educating our youngest learners, but also a necessity for many families,” said Claudia Miner, Waterford Upstart executive director and cofounder. “With Waterford Upstart, North Dakota families don’t have to worry about the learning loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. They can feel confident their children will walk into their first day of kindergarten prepared and ready to learn.”

Waterford Upstart is an in-home, kindergarten readiness program that gives families the tools they need to become their child’s first and most influential teachers, including a computer and internet access at no cost. The program provides positive parent-child interactions while delivering personalized, online instruction 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Families are also given support through a family coach and tips to continue engaging their children offline. On average, 92% of children who participate in Waterford Upstart are ready for kindergarten—compared to a 65% average nationwide and 48% for under-resourced children.

In the program’s first year, 200 North Dakota children from 74 different towns across 38 counties were given the opportunity to prepare for kindergarten at home using Waterford Upstart. The results were impressive: 91% of the children entered kindergarten at a “Kindergarten Intermediate” level—which is where most children score at the mid-point of their kindergarten year.

Currently, 480 children are using the Waterford Upstart program, and they too are seeing success. In the first 26 weeks of this year’s program, the average overall reading score was 83.94. A score of 80 or higher within the Waterford Early Reading Program represents mastery, which is the goal of the cognitively based Waterford Upstart program. Additionally, 85% of students taking part in Waterford Upstart’s Early Math and Science program had an overall math and science score of 80 or higher.

“The results of the first year of the Waterford Upstart pilot are exceptional. Ninety-one percent of the 200 participants graduated the program at ‘Kindergarten Beginning,’ or above. This is a huge achievement for our youngest learners,” said Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota State Superintendent. “Not only has this program set these children on the path to academic success, but it also gave our parents the support and a structure for which to establish a lifelong learning routine for their children. I’d like to see more of our families have access to Waterford Upstart; it’s absolutely what our youngest learners and families need in North Dakota.”

Families who have children heading into kindergarten in 2022 can apply by going to Spots are limited.

About 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, serves over 300,000 children across 43 states every year. 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.

About 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.


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