MADISON (WKOW)-- Many education experts agree that closing the achievement gap is a big issue in Madison's schools. Thursday night a brand new program aimed at closing the gap held their first ever graduation ceremony.
They call it the Parent-Child-Home program. It's sponsored and funded through the United Way and Dane County. The program starts when students are 2-years-old. An instructor is assigned to them for two years. During that time they meet twice each week for a half hour session. By the end of the program the student is ready and prepared for 4-year-old kindergarten.
"If you start a child learning numbers and letters a year or two ahead of time, all the better for that child and their chances at a good future," single father Bradyn Austin says.
When his daughter Melody turned 2-years-old, Austin was looking for anything he could find to prepare her for school. He came across the program and decided to join. Weeks later his daughter's instructor Emma Bohrod stopped by for their first lesson.
"You can just see a huge difference," Bohrod says. "My kids just picked up things so easily and quickly."
The goal of the program is to close the achievement gap before it even starts.
"Usually the racial achievement gap emerges, that gap emerges young and it just widens. The closer and sooner we can get ahead of that gap, the more success these kids are really signed up for for the rest of their lives," United Way Assistant Director of Community Engagement Sarah Listug says.
Thursday night 35 students graduated from the program. All of them are enrolled in 4-year-old kindergarten programs that start in the Fall.
The Parent-Child-Home program is new in Wisconsin, but organizers say it has been around for several years on the East Coast. A study in New York showed this early start for students in low-income and minority families saves more than $210,000 over the course of a child's schooling.
"An up front investment in early childhood education reeps about 4-7 dollars return," Listug says.
The program is organized and funded through a partnership between the United Way and Dane County. It's just one of the recent initiatives the county has created to combat the achievement gap in local schools.