At back-to-school nights, Boston Public School teachers introduced Harvard Achievement Support Initiative homework materials and parents heard firsthand how they could help supplement learning at home.

Campus & Community

HASI lends a hand

3 min read

Harvard program helps Boston schools to launch new year

Parents are parents. Of course they want to help their children to learn, but some parents may not have the tools or tips on hand to offer good homework help at home.

Enter Harvard and the Boston Public Schools, which have partnered again this fall to lend a hand.

As Boston Public School principals, teachers, and parents launched a new year at back-to-school nights in September, the Harvard Achievement Support Initiative (HASI) helped by providing 11 local schools with 3,000 bags filled with homework enrichment materials. HASI is a University program that aids teaching and learning in the Boston schools, including those in the Step Up partnership, through training, professional development, and research-based learning resources and strategies.

The HASI SmartTALK bags contain everything from crayons, markers, and magnetic alphabet letters for youngsters to play clocks, rulers, dictionaries, and calculators for older children, along with bilingual directions. The tools can help children to learn their letters, count, write, and do math. The tools are also a catalyst for parents and children to explore learning together.

This theory was demonstrated at the back-to-school nights, during which classroom teachers introduced the materials and parents heard firsthand how they could help support learning at home.

For principal Maria Cordon, who had used the materials in the Agassiz School for four years, the SmartTALK bags and a Harvard-sponsored dinner helped her launch the learning season at the freshly painted Hennigan School in Jamaica Plain.

“It was the right thing at the right time,” said Cordon, who welcomed hundreds of students and their families to the school on Sept. 28. “It really launched our new season together, and we all said to ourselves: ‘We’re here. We’re a community. Our children are going to be successful, and we’re going to do this together.’ ”

HASI SmartTALK materials and training have helped principals, teachers, and after-school staff in the 11 schools, as well as in Harvard-affiliated summer camps, to support school-time and after-school learning in fun, creative, and engaging ways for five years.

Participation in the back-to-school nights is part of HASI’s focus on family engagement. This focus is based on the work of Harvard researchers — such as Karen Mapp, director of the Education Policy and Management Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education — that underscores the positive impact that involved parents can have on a student’s academic success.