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(Helena, MT) - Rural Montana families now have a new way to prepare their children for kindergarten at home thanks to a large federal grant. The United States Department of Education awarded the nonprofit organization, an Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Expansion Grant with a goal of finding solutions to rural educational challenges in five western states through the Waterford UPSTART program.

Montana is the fourth largest state in the country but there’s an average of only seven people per square mile. The communities and reservations are isolated and rural, yet the state is home to more than 800 schools and 400 school districts.

Montana’s Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jule Walker, recognizes the state’s challenges and believes Waterford UPSTART could affect positive change, saying, “Montana is a rural state with many families unable to access early childhood education opportunities within their local community. UPSTART will allow parents to access high-quality early education resources online, giving families the ability to jumpstart their child’s education regardless of where they live in our state.”

This $14.2 million grant will bring the Waterford UPSTART program to five Western states. The pilots began in Wyoming, North Dakota, and Idaho last year, now South Dakota and Montana are enrolling for 2020. was awarded the EIR expansion grant after successfully serving rural families in Utah.

“We’re grateful to be recognized for the important work we’ve been doing in Utah for a decade,” said Benjamin Heuston, CEO of “Across the country, some 2.2 million 4-year-olds lack access to early education, and we’re eager to put this grant to use helping students in five more states prepare for a successful academic career, no matter their location or socioeconomic background.”

Families can register by going to Spots are limited and enrollment ends May 15, 2020. Restrictions apply. 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. We empower parents as a child’s first teacher, and we support teachers in taking the right actions at the right time for their students. In total, serves more than 300,000 children every year through all of our programs, and that number is continually growing.

Waterford UPSTART

Waterford UPSTART helps four-year-old children prepare for school at home and at no cost. Children develop foundational reading and social-emotional skills, and parents are empowered to become their child’s first and most influential teachers. The children use adaptive software just 15 minutes a day, five days a week in the year before they start school. Waterford UPSTART also fuels family involvement in their child’s early education through parent coaches and fun educational activities parents can complete with their children offline. Waterford UPSTART has been rigorously tested and proven, earning the program a federal EIR grant and the title of a TED Audacious project. Independent research shows the average Waterford UPSTART graduate enters kindergarten reading at nearly a first-grade level and maintains those gains through the fourth grade.

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