Wisconsin Lawmakers Work to Close Achievement Gap by Starting with the State’s Youngest Learners

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(Madison, WI) September 8, 2020 — The State of Wisconsin is working to close the state’s achievement gap by partnering with the nonprofit Waterford.org to reach Wisconsin’s youngest learners. Waterford.org will now provide its award-winning program, Waterford Upstart, to low-income families with 4-year-old children in several areas of 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.”

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 a bipartisan group of legislators supported SB 595. This law created funding for an early learning pilot program, which was awarded by the Wisconsin Department of Instruction to Waterford.org. The pilot program will fund an early learning solution in three urban and three rural school districts with persistent reading gaps, including 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.

“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.

SB 595 passed with broad bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Tony Evers. The proposal was also supported by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) during the legislative process. 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.

Registration for Waterford UPSTART is now open, but spots are limited and restrictions apply. Parents can register right now for this at-home, no-cost program by calling 1-888-982-9898 or by logging on to WaterfordUpstart.org.

About 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. 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.

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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