Education Policy and Advocacy
Toddler learns on tablet

Cradle-to-Career Pipeline: Old Challenges, New Solutions

Every year, millions of children walk into their first day of school unprepared to learn, and at no fault of their own. Those who start behind tend to fall further and further behind over the years, which can lead to dropout, trouble with the law, and generational poverty. Combined with COVID-19 hardships, these children can be left behind and overlooked.

The average school-day Pre-K program costs $5,000 per child.

At America Succeeds we took time in the pandemic to really dig into our core principles, focusing especially on equity, empowering families to choose their learning environment and our students-first mentality for policies we support. As we (like so many parents) looked for resources that could drastically change inequities in the cradle-to-career pipeline, we found Waterford.org. The Waterford Upstart program prioritizes the same principles as America Succeeds and eagerly stepped into the spotlight these last few years to support pre-K students and their families.

The innovators at Waterford cast a wide net out for resources, rather than focusing solely on the responsibility of a classroom teacher to give a child the knowledge they need to thrive. In the Waterford Upstart program, an adaptive education software, they offer personalized Pre-K learning and fully embrace the cradle-to-career continuity that can set a child up for lifelong success. Waterford focuses on collaboration among the child, their family, and educators. Parents who may feel lost as to how best to help their children prepare for school receive tools to empower them as their child’s first educator.

Children are naturally curious, and we say, keep exploring!” – Waterford.org

Focusing on learning opportunities beyond academics, and touching on several Durable Skills that we know are essential to a child’s future opportunity can give students a huge step forward. Because Durable Skills – like curiosity, creativity, resilience, critical thinking – are the human skills that a student carries with them from job to job, we know that programs focused on the building blocks for their development in early childhood can change the arc of a student’s future and career, and ultimately our workforce.

The pandemic may have further exposed the cracks in our classroom walls, but innovative programs like Waterford and others have raced to fill them in. Even better, they have shown us all that quality learning does not have to depend on location, income, or parental support. We can only imagine the walls we could knock down if more organizations shared this vision for personalized learning, cultivated strengths, and added support. 

A school building doesn’t inherently hold value – rather, the value exists through the potential of our future leaders if we empower them to love learning before they even enter one.

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