United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

Boston Quality Universal Pre-Kindergarten Initiative: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of this project?

The primary objective of this project is to ascertain the feasibility and related requirements for Boston to pursue a universal, high-quality Pre-Kindergarten initiative that would improve and sustain access to high-quality Pre-Kindergarten across the city. Findings and recommendations of the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Advisory Committee will help inform this effort, which itself was an explicit recommendation of the UPK Advisory Committee. This explicit design and implementation process is meant to provide more detailed analyses to facilitate informed decision-making, including an additional landscape assessment, benchmarks of other cities’ UPK initiatives, and further cost and funding analyses. A key deliverable is a proposed approach and related implementation plan that would allow the City to move forward with a universal, high-quality Universal Pre-Kindergarten initiative. Specific inputs to this objective include:

  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of the demand for Pre-Kindergarten services and the current supply of high-quality Pre-K options.
  • Design a system to achieve high-quality universal Pre-Kindergarten in Boston.
  • Determine cost estimates for a system that will provide high-quality services.
  • Understand successful elements of Pre-Kindergarten initiatives in other cities.
  • Outline an implementation plan based on key findings to include a recommended governance structure and operational milestones.

Why is it necessary to conduct an assessment of the Quality of Pre-Kindergarten programs?

One of the key findings of the UPK Advisory Committee’s report is that Boston largely has the capacity within programs to serve four-year-olds across the city (approximately 90% of four-year-olds are enrolled in a Pre-K program), but that the quality of programs is not consistent. Furthermore, there is a strong hypothesis that equity of access to quality Pre-K seats is inconsistent across Boston.

Research indicates that the quality of programming and instruction in Pre-K is directly linked to positive outcomes for children. Wellesley Centers for Women will conduct a study through surveys and observations to better understand the current landscape of capacity and quality of programs across neighborhoods. This information will be used to determine the scope and level of support that will be needed to provide consistent high-quality programming across the city.

How will this project link to future expansion of Boston Public School’s K1 seats?

This project is intended to inform decision-making about the City’s Pre-K efforts overall, including future K1 expansion in BPS relative to need and location. The results of the Boston Public Schools’ Facilities Master Plan will also influence this planning.

What is the time frame for completion?

The project will begin in June 2016 and will be completed by the end of calendar year 2016.

How is this project being funded?

The Barr Foundation, which has invested in early care and education efforts in Boston, is providing the funding for this project.

How will the results be used?

The project will produce the outline for an implementation plan based on key findings and will include a recommended governance structure and operational milestones. This information will be used by the City to determine the feasibility as well as a time frame for implementing high-quality Universal Pre-Kindergarten in Boston.

How will the results be shared and communicated?

Results of the quality assessment will be shared in a public report upon completion of the project. The City of Boston will also share its implementation plans specific to high-quality Pre-Kindergarten.

How does this work tie to efforts at the state level to advance Universal Pre-Kindergarten?

As he did in his January 2016 State of the City address, Mayor Walsh will continue to advocate for increased resources at the state level to support high-quality Pre-Kindergarten statewide.

In addition, a senior staff member from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is serving as a member of the Executive Committee for this project to support ongoing communication and alignment between state-level efforts and those underway in Boston.

Who can I contact for more information about this project and/or to provide feedback?

Please feel free to contact Peg Sprague, Project Liaison (psprague@supportunitedway.org)