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  3. National Forum On Youth Violence Prevention Communities: Boston
  4. City of Boston's Youth Violence Prevention Plan Spotlight On Prevention: The Circle of Promise

City of Boston's Youth Violence Prevention Plan Spotlight on Prevention: The Circle of Promise


The Circle of Promise is a student-centered and place based strategy that focuses on high student achievement as a means toward creating sustainable wealth and opportunity within the community.  By utilizing the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Academic Achievement Framework (AAF) as a means to assess students’ needs, the Circle of Promise initiative leverages public and private resources and partnerships to conduct targeted intervention and non-academic service delivery.

A Commitment to Excellent Schools

The “Acceleration Agenda” is a five-year strategic direction (2009-2014) that outlines goals and priorities for transforming the Boston Public Schools. Central to this plan is the charge to replicate success and turn around the district’s low-performing schools. In January of 2010, landmark educational reform, “An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap,” was signed into law that positions Massachusetts on the cutting edge of innovation and bold transformation. School districts will now have authority to exercise newfound flexibilities at schools designated as “Level 4” (underperforming) by the state. These schools will undergo rapid, targeted interventions in order to accelerate student improvement. Of the 12 schools designated as underperforming in Boston by the state, ten are located in the Circle of Promise.

Student Achievement as a Measurement for Community Success

The Circle of Promise strategy is to connect the pieces of Boston’s birth to college education pipeline, aligning the many organizations, institutions, and agencies that serve youth and families, and uniting across sectors around a single objective: high student achievement.   By focusing on this specific area, we can test and improve our systems and strategies, which can then be expanded to serve families city-wide.

The Circle of Promise

The Circle of Promise is a five-mile geographic area in the heart of the City of Boston, containing some of the city’s most challenged schools and disadvantaged communities, as well as great resources and assets.

A map of boston with 5 mile circle centered on Dearborn M S and Trotter

Within the Circle:

  • 168,000 individuals within 61,485 households.
  • 17% (41,848) between ages 6-17,
  • 8% (13,024) ages 0-5.
  • 51 schools, 12 of which are turn-around schools (two located in adjacent neighborhoods)
  • 6000 students attend these turn-around schools
  • 600 of most at-risk students within turn-around schools targeted for immediate intervention (based on AAF)
  • 12 city employees (non-School Department) assigned to turn-around schools as liaisons

Liaisons advocate for and coordinate delivery of non-academic services for students and families.  Core areas for assistance to date:

  • After/Summer school placements
  • Homelessness
  • Food/Nutrition
  • Health – physical and emotional
  • Clothing (winter coats/ jackets)
  • Jobs

Family Economic Stability as a Measurement for Community Success

While the Circle of Promise is student- and school-focused, it is also a family economic stability strategy. Sustainable change powerful enough to break the cycle of poverty requires engaging the family in the most concrete and comprehensive way possible – building capacity through the promotion of pathways to economic self-sufficiency.  Research and experience tells us that the strongest schools have active engagement and partnership with families and the community, as well as full services to support students’ social and emotional needs. We know that this cannot be done through the schools alone.

Boston has a wealth of community-based agencies, faith-based institutions, colleges and universities, and strong public and private sector organizations that offer a multitude of services and programs for families. Yet these services are not fully coordinated, and families must navigate a complicated network with little support. The Circle of Promise provides educational and advocacy services to facilitate seamless access to these opportunities.   


Central to ensuring access to opportunities and high quality programs that drive student achievement is a laser focus on data. The City of Boston, with the Boston Public Schools, has been developing a system that allows for shared measures, outcomes, and evaluation across sectors. Over the past two years, the Mayor has led a cross-agency leadership team dedicated to education, health, and human services, which has worked to advance a common agenda for youth and families from birth through college completion. The Circle of Promise will build on and expand this work, particularly efforts such as Thrive in 5 and the Community Learning Initiative, which have laid the groundwork for multi-level partnerships, more integrated systems, and alignment around student success.

For more information please contact:
Jen Maconochie
Boston Police Department