Waterford.org Announces $9 Million Investment to Prepare Children for Kindergarten this Fall, Launching Summer Expansion of Flagship At-Home Kindergarten Readiness Program, Waterford Upstart

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 - 3:11 pm

With COVID-19 disrupting PreK classes across the country, Waterford.org is partnering with education leaders to keep 15,000 children on track for the fall

Salt Lake City, UT – May 6, 2020 –  Waterford.org, a national early education nonprofit with a mission to achieve universal literacy through equity, access and parent empowerment, today announced a $9 million dollar investment to launch the Waterford Upstart Summer Learning Path in 9 states.

This is a condensed version of Waterford.org’s flagship at-home kindergarten readiness program, Waterford Upstart and will be used in Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, and Texas. The investment will provide a standards-aligned kindergarten readiness program to 15,000 children and their families, preparing them for kindergarten in Fall 2020. Registration is open today and can be accessed at www.waterfordupstart.org/summer.The program will begin June 1st for all expansion states and will be free to all participating families.

Waterford Upstart Summer Learning Path expands upon Waterford.org’s core mission to assist communities that have the least access to educational and technological learning options. The summer expansion aims in particular to support the students and families who have been affected by COVID-19 either through personal economic hardship or due to the indefinite closure of many PreK and Head Start options. The educational disruption caused by COVID-19 could result in a class of four-year-olds being unprepared for kindergarten this fall.

Every year, the summer slide is a real concern for educators, and in the wake of COVID-19, many fear a summer cliff, or ‘COVID Slide’, could be the reality for many children. Due to COVID-19, many of our children will not receive formal education for six months from March to August causing a heightened combination of summer learning loss and incomplete educational outcomes. This is especially dire for our preschoolers who are trying to reach critical benchmarks in literacy. Waterford.org has assembled a big tent of philanthropic, governmental and nonprofit partners to address this issue and identify at-risk children and families in each state for the summer program. Some partners include the Head Start program of Mississippi and Miami-Dade County, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, New Mexico State Representative Mimi Stewart, and The Children’s Movement of Florida. Funding for this expansion is from The Studio @ Blue Meridian, The Valhalla Charitable Foundation and the Overdeck Family Foundation.

“Early education setbacks can have a significant effect on a child’s future life and career outcomes. It is also always more difficult to catch a student up than to provide a strong foundation from the beginning. With COVID-19 exacerbating inequity and resource disparities among our communities, it’s critical that we come together and act now to prevent thousands of four-year-olds from entering kindergarten unprepared this fall,” said Dr. Benjamin Heuston, CEO of Waterford.org. “We are proud to be working with our state and nonprofit partners in a coalition to ensure our most at-risk children in getting ready for kindergarten this Fall.”

The average Waterford Upstart graduate begins kindergarten reading at a nearly first-grade level. Every year, roughly 2.2 million four-year-old children in the United States, particularly children from low-income households or who live in geographically isolated areas, are unable to access site-based preschool for a variety of reasons including cost and transportation. Waterford.org looks to fill those education gaps with the Waterford Upstart program.

Our partnership with Waterford.org has enhanced programming in Head Start, increasing school readiness for hundreds of four-year-old children transitioning to kindergarten. Many of our communities are under-resourced and working with Waterford.org helps to fill gaps.” said Nita Norphlet-Thompson, Executive Director of the Mississippi Head Start Association. “We are excited to see Waterford.org collaborating with us to continue to support Head Start children and their families.”

“Simply wonderful news for Florida’s children and families,” said David Lawrence Jr., the chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida. “After visiting Waterford Upstart programs in South Carolina this February, I came away with the strongest sense of the difference this makes in helping children – and importantly, in giving parents tools and coaching to support their success.”

With Waterford Upstart, parents will receive weekly contact from a personal coach to keep the family on track. Through Waterford Mentor, families will also receive push notifications, letting them know what their child is learning and ways they can continue that engagement offline. Waterford Upstart’s personalized online program will be used 25 minutes a day, 5 days a week during the condensed summer program. This will help students achieve the number of minutes necessary to be kindergarten ready and still falls well within the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) and World Health Organization’s recommendations of no more than one hour of screen time per day for four-year-old children.

“We are excited to support Waterford UPSTART in reaching 15,000 young children to get ready for kindergarten this fall,” said Lizz Pawlson, Managing Director at Blue Meridian Partners who leads the work of The Studio. “We know children are highly likely to experience significant learning loss as a result of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Waterford UPSTART is well-positioned to expand an intensive summer version of its core program during a time of great, escalating need nationwide.”

The program’s offerings also account for the nation’s digital divide in technology and internet access, as 9.4 million children in the United States do not have access to the internet at home, and will provide internet installation and tools such as laptops to families that do not have these resources.

“Help is on the way for parents who are doing their best but struggling during this stressful time. Many parents are trying to balance both work and their young child’s education and they may not have all the resources they need,” said Dr. Claudia Miner, Executive Director of Waterford Upstart. “Waterford Upstart includes an award-winning adaptive program along with the coaching and assistance parents need to prepare their child for school this fall, right at home.”

Media inquiries for Waterford.org can be made by contacting Kim Fischer at kimfischer@waterford.org  or at (801)831-0828.

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.