In 2005, Boston launched a citywide universal preschool program in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) for four-year-olds that combined two features of early childhood education: research-based, integrated and thematic curricula and quality professional development informed by NAEYC quality standards and practices. Through a public-private partnership, the Boston program was able to hire coaches to improve the skills of preschool teachers and ensure high-quality programming. Today, the BPS high-quality preschool program serves over 2,300 four-year-olds. Research has demonstrated significant benefits for children who participate in the BPS preschool program in cognitive and non-cognitive skills, including language, math, executive functioning and self-regulation. Results also show that the program helps to close the achievement gap, though it benefits all children, regardless of race and income.
In an effort to reach more children and provide a consistent preschool experience for all students entering kindergarten, BPS next obtained external funding to expand beyond the school-based classrooms to community-based programs through an initiative known as the Boston K1DS demonstration project. The demonstration project serves approximately 250 students in 14 classrooms. Preliminary results look promising, showing gains in instructional quality in math, language and literacy. BPS and its partners in the Boston K1DS effort recently received additional funding to expand the project to six Head Start classrooms in the city. In addition to the curriculum, materials, and coaching support, this new project will build Head Start’s internal capacity for classroom mentoring and coaching. These efforts with community-based and Head Start programs are supported by grants from Pierce Trust, the Barr Foundation, Cox Foundation, and Race to the Top funds. Additionally, in 2008, Boston launched Thrive in Five, a public-private partnership between the City of Boston and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, dedicated to ensuring that children of all backgrounds have the needed support and opportunities to succeed in school and life. To tackle the latter part of the learning continuum, the city is also working with several renowned academic experts to develop a curriculum and adequate supports for children in kindergarten through the third grade.