State, Education Nonprofit building on early education success

INDIANA — Schools are now opening across Indiana, but they are still in need of more teachers and bus drivers, and COVID-19 remains a concern. But thanks to a state partnership, 300 families will be able to circumvent those concerns by getting their children ready for kindergarten right from their own homes. 

Funding from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) is providing the research-based Waterford Upstart early learning program to those families in the year before kindergarten. This is the fourth year of this funding partnership. 


“Best program ever – love that my child can work at his own pace,” an Indiana parent wrote in a survey administered to caregivers from the 2021-22 Waterford Upstart cohort that included 375 children spanning 119 municipalities across 64 counties.

When students were tested after using the program, 89% of them produced results demonstrating mastery of concepts such as letter recognition, phonemic awareness, and reading comprehension. 

Kim Fischer

“These children will walk into kindergarten as confident learners, which eases the burden on hardworking teachers,” national spokesperson Kim Fischer said. “Unfortunately, the added stress of the pandemic has led to many educators leaving the profession. We want to offset some of the teacher workloads by making sure kids enter kindergarten prepared to learn.”

Waterford Upstart is a responsive, online education tool that adapts to the unique needs of children, providing lessons in reading, math, and science 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Parents and caregivers are provided with resources — including a computer and, if needed, internet service — that help them become the first and most influential teachers of their children. Families also receive a coach who guides families along the way through phone calls, emails, or text messages.

A coach might offer, for example, tips on positive parent-child engagement offline that enhance mindset skills, which are critical in the education process. FSSA funding means there is never a financial cost to caregivers. 

“I love how engaging the [Waterford] staff are with parents, as well as alluding to a family involvement first approach to my child’s earning,” another parent wrote in the survey. “I appreciated the calls and updates on my son’s progress the most. I am sad that the program will be ending for him soon but hopeful that his school will implement it.” 

Families with children entering kindergarten in the fall of 2023 may apply for the program at or by calling 888-982-9898. On average, Waterford Upstart graduates begin school reading at nearly a first-grade level, according to data.