Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced on September 28 the formation of Step UP, a new collaborative effort among 5 of the Boston area’s largest universities to deliver coordinated learning services to 10 Boston public schools. Boston University, Boston College, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Tufts University will provide services and in-kind contributions worth at least $10 million over the next five years.
“Local colleges and universities have been strong partners with the Boston Public Schools for years,” said Menino (Hon.’01). “This initiative will take that partnership one step further by bringing some of Boston’s top universities into selected schools in a coordinated way.”
A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said the aim of Step UP (University Partnership) was to leverage the collective experience of the universities and provide services in six areas: professional development for teachers, curriculum and instructional support, school readiness, parent engagement, student wellness, and assessment and evaluation. The services will be based on the specific needs of selected schools. Each university has pledged to provide leadership to a select number of schools in identified areas of expertise.
Speaking on behalf of all the university partners at a press conference at Boston City Hall, Boston University President Robert Brown said the universities were pleased to accept Menino’s challenge to work with the Boston Public Schools.
“Our universities are dedicated to improving the quality of education for all members of the community,” said Brown, “and we look forward to drawing on our expertise and experience to meet specific needs identified by the schools themselves. There is a sense of partnership and enthusiasm among the five universities and the city of Boston as we work together to ensure that Boston remains a great place to live and work.”
The mayor’s office reported that services to selected schools would begin when a program coordinator was hired. Those services will include:
• Teacher Professional Development — training for staff and graduate level courses
• Instructional and After-School Support — a comprehensive initiative focused on improving reading and math instruction, strengthening student-teacher and teacher-parent relationships, enriching after-school programs, preparation for students heading into high school and for graduate students and professors co-teaching math and science courses
• School Readiness and Student Support — tutoring programs, materials and technical assistance, social work to reduce truancy, and use of campus facilities to support classroom instruction
• Family Engagement and Out of School Time — application of extended days, full-service model of mentoring, tutoring and community resources, new and expanded summer and vacation programs, summer job opportunities, field trips, and community experiences
• Student Wellness — nutrition, dental, and general health screenings as well as a food service program
• Program Assessment and Evaluation.
“In working with the universities to develop this initiative, we’ve been able to bring to bear some of the lessons that we at Boston University have learned from our other engagements in local K-12 education,” said Douglas Sears, BU associate provost and assistant to the president for outreach and special initiatives. “The scale and scope of what Boston University already does in the city is unparalleled. I think people will find that the universities involved in Step UP have worked hard to prevent the confusion that can occur when there are too many things going on at once — too many cooks, so to speak, in the kitchen. And we have all been concerned to ensure that our work coordinates with the school system’s curricular objectives.”
Michael Contompasis, interim superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, described the collaboration as unprecedented. “These services could change a child’s day from the typical six hours of school to an extended day,” he said, “with morning and after-school programs where a child will receive the extra attention that he or she needs to have a better chance to succeed.”