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Boston’s lagging pre-kindergarten classes targeted

Pupils’ success in city schools is goal

Mayor Thomas M. Menino will announce on Wednesday an initiative to help several community-based organizations bolster the quality of education they deliver in their pre-kindergarten classrooms.

The program’s goal is for children to graduate from these pre-kindergarten classrooms better prepared to succeed in Boston’s public schools.

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The initiative will target 14 classrooms that serve about 200 students in areas of the city with high rates of poverty. Low-
income students tend to enter kindergarten less prepared than their more affluent peers, and the quality of pre-kindergarten programs can vary tremendously in the private sector.

The School Department, the Barr Foundation, and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley will provide organizations with money and expertise so they can offer the same caliber of programs and teachers that are in pre-kindergarten classrooms in the city’s schools.

Teachers in the targeted classrooms will hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

“Providing our children a good and early start is so important to their success through high school and college,” Menino said in a statement. “We know this investment will result in high quality education for more of our youngest students, thanks to the work of our trusted community partners at the United Way.”

Ten of the classrooms are at Nazareth Child Care Center in Jamaica Plain, the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester, the East Boston YMCA, the Ellis Memorial Early Education Center in the South End, Escuelita Boriken in the South End, N.I.C.E. Inc. in Roxbury, and Wesley Child Care Center in Dorchester.

‘Our goal is to provide every child in our city with the resources they need to succeed. By making more early-education opportunities available to the families of Boston, we are making great strides in achieving our goal.’

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Each of those organizations will receive grants ranging between $15,000 and $45,000.

Later this month Thrive in 5 — a partnership between the city and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Merrimack Valley — will announce four additional classrooms.

Jane Tewksbury, executive director of Thrive in 5, said the initiative should help reduce the gap in achievement between low-income students and their more affluent peers. “We’re all pretty excited about this,” she said.

The organizations will still charge families tuition, but state subsidies will most likely cover some or all of the tuition costs for families with limited financial means.

“Our goal is to provide every child in our city with the resources they need to succeed,” Superintendent Carol R. Johnson said in a statement. “By making more early-education opportunities available to the families of Boston, we are making great strides in achieving our goal.”

The School Department is planning to use about $200,000 from Race to the Top funds, a federal grant program. The money will pay for coaches who will work with the community-based organizations to help them adopt the same kinds of instructional techniques and lesson plans used by the Boston public schools.

The initiative, which builds upon a pilot program the School Department started with the Boys and Girls Club a few years ago, will last three years.

If it is successful, the city and the organizations are expected to continue the partnerships.

It could also serve as a model for other communities as state education officials try to ramp up the quality of all private preschool programs.

“There will be a lot of eyes on this project,” said Jason Sachs, the School Department’s director of early learning ­services.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.
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