Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education

Children in School

The School with a Promise

"UPCS is the school where it's cool to be smart. It's cool to do your homework. It's a change in culture and kids want to go to the cool school at University Park."

Jack Foley, Vice President for Government and Community Affairs at Clark University

The University Park Campus School is a grade 7-12 school serving 232 students in Worcester, Mass. In partnership with Clark University, UPCS has compiled an unparalleled record of academic achievement since opening its doors in 1997.

For the last five years, UPCS has ranked first among urban schools serving low-income students on state-mandated English and math graduation exams and in the top quartile of all high schools in the state. Over 95% of graduates from its first four graduating classes have gone on to college. Nearly all are first generation college attendees.

Operating on the same per pupil budget as other district high schools in the city, the success of UPCS is not the result of exceptional financial resources. Rather, it is the result of an exceptional school culture that promises to prepare every student for college. The school’s record of accomplishment is all the more remarkable given the low academic skills and limited English profi- ciency of its entering students. Chosen by lottery, the vast majority of students enter at least two grade levels behind in reading and math.

The only requirement for entry to UPCS is that students live in the immediate neighborhood of the school. Located in the poorest section of Worcester, three-quarters of the students qualify for free lunch; two-thirds come from homes where English is not spoken. Thirty seven percent of the school’s students are Latino, 18 percent are Asian Americans, and 11 percent are African American. Many of the white students are recent arrivals from Eastern Europe who enter the school speaking only a few words of English.

UPCS was founded in 1997 as part of a larger partnership between Clark University and local community development organizations to reverse the economic and social decline of the neighborhood. Together the university and the Worcester Public Schools planned and opened UPCS, now located one block from the university.