Four-year-old children across rural Indiana now have an opportunity to prepare for school at no cost, thanks to funding from the state Legislature.
Waterford UPSTART is an in-home, early education program that helps families without access to On My Way PreK or who can’t afford preschool in their areas. Waterford.org is an early education nonprofit with a mission to achieve universal literacy for children through equity, access and parent empowerment.
Parents are given the tools they need to become their child’s first and most influential teacher, including a computer and internet access at no cost. The program provides positive parent-child interactions while delivering personalized, online instruction.
Parents are also given support through a personal 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 low-income children.
In 2019, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Bill 1004, making Waterford UPSTART available to fill early education gaps across the state. Legislators wanted to make sure families without access to PreK were able to prepare for their first day of school.
After the first year, 195 4-year-olds saw overwhelming success. About 86.5% of children on the program mastered foundational reading skills, excelling in phonics, comprehension, vocabulary and language concepts.
To qualify, children must meet all of these requirements:
• Household annual income not exceeding 127% of the federal poverty level
• Live in a qualifying rural code (Ripley, Franklin, Decatur, Dearborn and over 40 other Hoosier counties)
• Have no access to On My Way PreK
• Use Waterford UPSTART software 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Families can register their 4-year-olds at waterfordupstart.org. Spots are limited and eligible children must begin kindergarten in 2021.
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