Waterford.org Announces $9 Million Summer Expansion of Kindergarten Readiness Program

A bookshelf full of books takes the place f the screen in an open laptop computer.
(Image credit: iStock/urfinguss)

With pre-K and Head Start schooling severely disrupted by coronavirus closings, the effects of missed early childhood education are borne most heavily by those who can least afford to fall behind. Worse than the usual "summer slide," the "COVID Slide" could be the reality for many children.

That's why Waterford.org, a national early education literacy nonprofit, has 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.

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.” 

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.

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.