Early Learning Success Institutes


Early Learning Success Institutes (ELSI)

For the past 21 years, UWSBC’s Kindergarten Success Institutes provide best practice and research-based curriculum and credentialed teachers to help students master the social/emotional, language, motor and approach to learning skills that are essential to their future success in school.

Distance learning has caused significant disruptions in the learning and social development of young students who have had little, if any, in-person learning. Therefore in 2021, United Way has expanded its pre-K and Kindergarten in-person academic support programs and rebranded as Early Learning Success Institutes (ELSI) that will operate in 5 school districts to also address the learning needs of grades 1-2. We will serve young students who need additional support outside of the classroom, and we will integrate these services with our United Learning Center tutoring.



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Why Early Learning Success Institutes (ELSI)?

Early childhood education is crucial in preparing children for the social, academic, and behavioral traits needed for successful learning in kindergarten and far beyond. Unfortunately, low-income families have few options in terms of affordable preschools. Consequences of reduced preschool access are that as many as two-thirds of incoming 4- to 6-year-olds tested as "not ready for kindergarten." Early Learning Success Initiatives offer a good start in life by developing children's academic and social/emotional skills. ELSI's help children socialize with adults and other children and develop important language, physical, and cognitive skills. There is growing recognition that children who attend quality early educational programs are likely to be more successful both in school and later in life. Children who have not attended preschool often do not know basic numbers, shapes, and colors, or how to spell their names, use scissors, sit still in a circle, share, or cope with frustration. For many children, catching up to their peers who have attended preschool can be extremely difficult.


2021-22 Early Learning Success Institutes (ELSI)

With prolonged school closures and distance learning, ELSI is more important than ever before. To better support local students, the traditional Kindergarten focused program is being expanded to serve additional high-need students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade who missed much of their critical early learning years, which are truly crucial, foundational learning periods for young children, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without early support, these children would struggle with the effects of the pandemic’s school closures for years to come.


Who are the program participants?

ELSI sites typically have sizable percentages (65-100%) of low-income students receiving Free/Reduced-Price Lunch benefits (family gross annual income at about $34,060 or below for a family of four) and limited access to similar affordable early education programs. After the expansion of the program in 2021, participants now range from 4 years old to students in 1st and 2nd grade and are identified by school staff as being from low-resource families and having had little or no previous preschool experience or difficulties with learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.



How does the program operate?

As in previous years, at each site, a certified teacher and instructional aide will work with groups of students to help them learn basic skills (i.e., sharing, numbers, colors, letters, early literacy, etc.). Teaching is individualized to address each student’s particular presenting needs. ELSI uses rotational models that allow students to work in smaller groups with more individualized attention. Classroom sizes are being adjusted to comply with CDC guidelines. Through a hands-on, individualized curriculum, students can master the social/emotional, language, motor and approach to learning skills that are essential to their future success in kindergarten and beyond. During ELSI sessions, participants also receive UWSBC’s Home Play Learning Kits, interactive, bilingual kits with educational materials and books designed to engage children and parents in learning together at home. 

To help students maximize their progress in the time available, ELSI will operate in tandem with the United Learning Center (ULC), United Way’s tutoring center. ULC programming will be incorporated into ELSI programming to provide intensive support to students struggling to master basic and early literacy skills. Through small group tutoring in reading and writing, students and instructors work together on personalized lesson plans that include a blend of teacher-delivered curriculum and students’ use of customized, online, Common Core-aligned reading tools. In addition, students will practice and develop social-emotional skills and mindfulness to better cope with these trying times.



What are the program goals?

  • Familiarize children with classroom activities and the school setting
  • Help them to overcome their fear of being away from home.
  • Build important skills needed for successful early learning.
  • Develop early literacy skills.
  • Improve English skills.
  • Effectively engage parents and families in their child's education.
  • Connect families with community resources
  • Overcome learning loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning difficulties.


Program Achievements

Over the program’s history, participants have improved their kindergarten readiness scores by more than 50 percent. In 2018 alone, our initiative boosted the readiness scores of nearly 200 students by an average of 55%! We look forward to seeing the progress our students included in our ELSI expansion will experience as the coming school year unfolds.


“Kindergarten Success Institutes provide a foundation 

for children that cannot be measured by an assessment; 

it helps children enter school as confident students.” 

                                        –Krista Munizich, 18-year KSI Instructor