Resources for Boston UPK Families & Partners
Boston UPK Community Provider Family Newsletter
Introduction to UPK for Community Provider Families
If you are a parent or caregiver of a current UPK student at a community provider and were unable to attend the Open House on November 10, 2022, you can find an Introduction Video below. The video, shown during the Open House event, provides an introduction to some of the Boston Universal Pre-K leadership and staff at Boston Public Schools. The video gives an overview of the Boston UPK program and benefits available to your family - which include workshops hosted by BPS and partner organizations, leadership opportunities, and priority registration for your child in BPS K2 through the Connector System.
UPK to BPS K2 Connector System
The Boston Universal Pre-K team and Countdown to Kindergarten at Boston Public Schools works with families of current UPK K1 students at community providers to transition their children to Boston Public Schools for kindergarten (K2) the following year. Families with a child enrolled in a UPK K1 classroom can take advantage of the Connector System. The Connector gives priority to UPK K1 children attending a community-based or Family Child Care provider during the BPS lottery assignment for K2 in certain schools. There is no guaranteed connection between a UPK provider setting and a particular BPS school for K2; rather, the Connector gives families of UPK K1 community-based children a higher probability of admission to specific schools for K2.
To be eligible for the UPK to BPS K2 Connector System, families must register their child during the annual BPS K2 priority registration period as indicated by BPS Welcome Services. The Connector system aims to ensure continuity of the kindergarten experience from UPK in a community provider-based provider setting to K2 in a BPS school.
View a map of the current Connector schools here; Connector schools are subject to change.
For more information on the Connector System please refer to the slides below:
More background on the Connector System: The UPK Community-Based/Boston Public Schools Connector System was approved by the Boston School Committee in September 2020 after a 2017 pilot. You can see the slides presented by Boston UPK staff to the School Committee in August 2020 here. You can also find a memo explaining logistics of the Connector system sent to the BPS Superintendent and Chairperson of Boston School Committee in August 2020 here.
Boston Early Childhood Research Practice Partnership
The Boston Early Childhood Research Practice Partnership (RPP) began in 2007 and includes practitioners from Boston Public Schools and researchers from the University of Michigan, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and MDRC. Together, the team uses data and research to improve early educational experiences and outcomes for young children in Boston and beyond.
The RPP team recently launched a new website to share its work. You can explore past and current research studies and all associated publications. Boston UPK community providers are critical partners in this ongoing work and we thank them for their ongoing participation in the Boston UPK Study part of the RPP.
Special Education, Related Services and Behavioral Health for UPK Children in Community Providers
The Boston Universal Pre-K Special Education team includes service provider staff in the following roles who provide assessments and services for UPK children on site at provider facilities: special education liaison, behavioral health services liaison, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, school psychologist, social worker, and family partner.
If your child has an identified disability or Individualized Education Program (IEP), please notify your UPK provider to coordinate support.
Boston UPK Screening and Support
If a parent or caregiver of a current UPK student has a concern about a child’s development or behavior, please contact staff at the provider to coordinate a screening assessment or other support. A child should be provided 4-5 weeks to acclimate to their new classroom and routines at the start of the school year before a screening is conducted.
When a family and/or teaching team has expressed concern, A UPK service provider (occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, school psychologist, or social worker) will visit the site for observation and assessment as appropriate. The provider will observe the child in the early education setting, and depending on the type of concern, a Related Services provider may conduct a formal screening, or a behavioral health provider may recommend that a student participate in short-term counseling services individually and/or in a small group.The service provider will communicate with the site-based staff and families of children regarding how long an intervention will last and what recommendations will be made for continued progress after counseling services are discontinued.
The UPK service provider will compile findings and recommendations which result in a recommended course of action, such as: 1) The child is deemed to need no further testing or support at the current time, 2) the provider will recommend strategies and support which may include individual/small group intervention and follow-up with the child’s UPK teaching team in 4-5 weeks, or 3) the provider recommends immediate special education testing of the child to better assess their needs, which will take place through Boston Public Schools Welcome Services.
Therapy services available on site at UPK community providers through BPS include occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, and counseling. Other supports are available off site at Boston Public Schools locations.
Another course of action a family can take if a child is suspected of having a disability, or if your family is not currently participating in Boston Universal Pre-K/Boston Public Schools and is three or four years old, is to have the child screened through Child Find. Child Find requires school districts to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities. These screenings are for 3- and 4-year-old children who are Boston residents and not presently attending Boston Public Schools. For information on dates of annual Child Find screenings, contact the BPS Office of Special Education at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-635-8873.
Boston UPK can provide crisis support to individual students, an entire classroom or an entire site, as as single/one-off supports or ongoing services in the event of an unexpected death, dangerous behavior, community violence, or a severe winter storm.
Parents and caregivers have the option to opt into this support at their child's UPK site and are provided this option in the SchoolMint enrollment platform. If your child is in need of crisis support or if you are unsure if you opted into this support, please contact your UPK provider.
Boston Universal Pre-K provides workshops for parents and caregivers on topics of accessing special education services; proactively teaching social, emotional, and behavioral skills; and responding to challenging behavior when it occurs. Information on these workshops is included in the UPK Family Newsletter which is sent to your UPK program’s family engagement coordinator (FEC). If you are not receiving the UPK Family Newsletter via email from your FEC, please contact them to request to receive it each month.
Boston UPK service providers in Related Services and Behavioral Health contribute to the monthly UPK Family Newsletter for parents and caregivers and write articles on special education resources, behavioral health (i.e. behavior support, self regulation), speech and occupational therapy activities that can be done at home, and other topics including wellness and community resources for families. Find copies of past Family Newsletters in a Google Drive folder here.
Health and safety protocols:
All Boston UPK community providers are following COVID-19 health and safety protocols from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). Recent recommendations from EEC can be found here.
COVID-19 Parenting Resources:
- Self-Care in the Time of Coronavirus (Child Mind Institute)
- Parenting During COVID-19 (Psychology Today)
- 24 At-Home Learning Activities to Share with Parents of Young Children (Brookes Blog)
Free Playgroups for Boston Children Ages 1-5
Countdown to Kindergarten offers playgroups for Boston children ages 1-5 with an adult caregiver. Playgroups each meet once a week for two hours and are hosted by trained facilitators from Boston Public Schools. Activities promote social-emotional and school readiness skills, as well as community building.
Playgroups operate during the school year (September through June) and follow the BPS holiday and school break schedule. They are currently held at the Margarita Muñiz Academy in Jamaica Plain and the Mario Umana Academy in East Boston on a variety of days and times. Find a flyer (English and Spanish) here. Caregivers can fill out a form to receive more information: English form and Spanish form.
Other Helpful Links for Families