ABOUT BOSTON UNIVERSAL PRE-K
Boston Universal Pre-K provides free, high-quality pre-k, which includes a 6.5-hour school day for 180 days per year. UPK is offered in a variety of settings in an effort of expanding access to high-quality preschool seats.
What does high-quality pre-k mean?
- Boston Public Schools' (BPS') UPK program exceeds national standards.
- All pre-k teachers have a degree in early childhood education and are prepared to teach in classroom settings to support students of all backgrounds and needs.
- Teachers receive ongoing professional development throughout the year to enhance their teaching.
- Expert coaches provide ongoing support to teachers.
- Students learn from the Boston Public Schools Focus on Pre-K curriculum and the Building Blocks curriculum, which are national models in early childhood education.
- All classroom environments are age-appropriate and culturally responsive.
- Small classrooms with 2 educators for 20 students.
- Nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
- Each UPK community provider has a family engagement coordinator available to provide support to families to meet their individual needs.
Boston UPK Partners:
Why is pre-k important for your child?
Research shows that children who attended the BPS pre-k program continue to outperform students who did not attend and have long-term academic achievement.
Students in our program will work toward becoming well-rounded students better prepared for school and life through:
- Play-centered learning in small classrooms;
- Developing routines and become comfortable with classroom structures;
- Building positive relationships with other children and teachers;
- Building social, emotional, critical thinking, math and reading skills; and
- Working independently and in groups to explore new ideas, question concepts, and share their feelings, becoming well-rounded students better prepared for school and life.
“I feel that Little Voices has a true partnership in the UPK Team. As far as the children are concerned, I feel that they are getting the best of both worlds: the BPS curriculum and all of the good center-based, teachable moments and relationship building that Little Voices is known for.”
- Maureen Myers, Director, Little Voices Early Care and Education
History of Boston UPK
Boston Universal Pre-K (UPK) is an initiative of Boston Public Schools (BPS) and the City of Boston Office of Early Childhood (OEC). The program’s continued city expansion is administered by the BPS Department of Early Childhood.
Boston’s UPK program got its start in 2005, when Mayor Thomas Menino made a commitment to preschool for all 4-year-olds in Boston. By 2009, demand for pre-k began to exceed the number of seats allocated within Boston Public Schools. To address the demand, Boston began to explore implementing a mixed-delivery system. In 2013, Boston became a recipient of the Preschool Expansion Grant, creating a partnership between Boston Public Schools, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, and community-based providers in Boston. The Preschool Expansion Grant continued until 2019.
The City of Boston made its commitment to a high-quality, mixed-delivery, universal prekindergarten system in 2019. Mayor Menino’s successor, Mayor Martin Walsh began prioritizing quality – not just access – to preschool. At that time, Mayor Walsh announced the $15 Million Quality Pre-K Fund to provide the start-up funding for the remaining seats estimated to be needed, which would be funded at community-based provider organizations. The $15M came from the City General fund and represented roughly 10% of the new funding the City had available in FY20; this came from existing property tax and other local revenue sources. Boston UPK further expanded to serve 3-year-olds in community-based providers in 2021.
In 2022, Mayor Michelle Wu announced the launch of the City of Boston Office of Early Childhood (OEC) to further the City’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all children under five, making OEC a key partner in the UPK program. Mayor Michelle Wu also announced $20 million in funding for universal pre-k for the 2022-23 school year - the largest single year commitment to date.
Boston UPK is funded through the City’s Pre-K Fund, Boston Public Schools district funds, and contributions from public and private philanthropy. BPS increases its contribution each year to ensure sustainability of the pre-k model in Boston. The Boston UPK program focuses on making sure that all pre-k seats created are of high quality.
Boston UPK is integrating family child care organizations into its program portfolio in the 2023-24 school year, now bringing Boston UPK’s mixed-delivery system to three settings: Boston Public Schools classrooms, community-based organizations, and family child care.
To view a historical timeline showing the history of pre-k in Boston, click here.
The governance of Boston UPK includes the Mayor of Boston, Boston Public Schools Superintendent, the Boston School Committee, the UPK Advisory Committee, the Leadership of UPK-funded community-based providers, and the BPS Early Childhood Family Council. Boston Public Schools is the lead agent in administering the Boston UPK program. Program and policy changes are approved by the Mayor of Boston, BPS Superintendent, and the Boston School Committee.
Under the guidance of the Mayor of Boston and the Boston Public Schools Superintendent, the active decision-making body is the Boston UPK Advisory Committee. The Committee comprises a number of invested stakeholders in the early childhood education field in the region and includes leaders in philanthropy, business, higher education, health and human services, the City of Boston, and Boston School Committee, and representatives from current UPK partner organizations. Click here to view the current UPK Advisory Committee.
Administrative leadership of the UPK-funded providers comprise a Leadership Committee to work through program and process changes. To view all UPK providers represented, click here. The Early Childhood Family Council convenes caregivers of UPK students in order to engage families with BPS and to receive feedback on early childhood curriculum and program components. The Steering Committee members of the 2022-23 Family Council are listed here.