(WFRV) – After The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) assessed the state of Wisconsin as having the worst racial achievement gap in the nation, state providers are now funding a new educational program for low-income families to help close that gap.
The Department of Public Instruction, in conjunction with nonprofit Waterford.org, announced they are launching the Waterford Upstart program to low-income families with 4-year-old children in six districts across the state, in hopes of closing the achievement gap in these districts.
“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.”
Officials say the program will provide 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.
State officials report that they 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.
“We know that not all families have the ability access or resources to be able to have their child participate in a high-quality early childhood experience,” said Amy Shepherd, Director of Early Learning at Racine Unified School District. “Being able to offer all sorts of options, whether it’s in the classroom or virtually through Waterford Upstart, really opens up access community-wide to those high-quality early education experiences.”
Registration for Fall 2021 is now open, but spots are limited, and restrictions apply. Parents with children entering kindergarten in 2022 can register by calling 1-888-982-9898 or by visiting the website.