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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Safe and Supportive Schools Commission - Recommendations on Principles of Effective Practice for Integrating Student Supports

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
Date:
January 12, 2018

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This memorandum provides recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board), per the requirement in the fiscal year (FY) 2018 state budget, line item 7061-9612:

"… provided further that the safe and supportive schools commission shall make recommendations to the board of elementary and secondary education regarding ways to include in the self-assessment tool and framework principles of effective practice for integrating student supports not later than December 31, 2017…"

The recommendations represent preliminary thinking and do not require discussion or Board action at this time. We will schedule a presentation and discussion for a future date. This memorandum provides basic background information about the Commission, outlines ways the Commission has identified principles of effective practice for integrating student supports to inform recommendations on incorporating them into a framework and self-assessment tool for schools, and describes plans for next steps in the Commission's work.

The attached report from the Commission addresses principles of effective practice for integrating student supports. It is informed by analysis, interviews, a review of current literature, and work produced by the Behavioral Health and Public Schools (BHPS) Taskforce.1 It lays the foundation for further discussion and development of recommendations relating to the safe and supportive schools framework and self-assessment tool.

Background and Recent Commission Work

The Safe and Supportive Schools Commission (Commission) was created in 2014 as part of the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework Law (Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 69, section 1P), through An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence. Associate Commissioner Rachelle Engler Bennett currently serves as the Commissioner's designee on the Commission, and co-chairs it with Susan Cole, who represents Massachusetts Advocates for Children on the Commission.

The Commission was established to collaborate with and advise the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) on the feasibility of state-wide implementation of a safe and supportive schools framework.2 The aforementioned law directs the Department to develop this framework, along with an accompanying self-assessment tool for schools, and to do so in a way that is consistent with the currently available Behavioral Health and Public Schools (BHPS) Framework and Self-Assessment Tool that was developed by the BHPS Task Force and Department in 2011. The purpose of the framework is to provide guidance and support to promote safe and supportive schools that improve education outcomes for students. The self-assessment tool is to be used by schools to: (i) assess the school's capacity to create and sustain safe and supportive school environments for all students; (ii) identify areas where additional school-based action, efforts, guidance, and support are needed to create and maintain safe and supportive school environments; and (iii) create action plans to address the areas of need identified by the assessment.

In brief, integrating student supports refers to promoting student success and well-being (academic, social-emotional, physical, and psychological) by providing and coordinating school and community supports that address barriers to learning, and that take place inside and/or outside of school. This past fall, the Commission worked to identify principles of effective practice in this realm.

To inform the Commission's work, during October through early November 2017, five leaders in the field were interviewed by Commission Co-Chairs and/or their colleagues, to hear about and consider their perspectives on integrating student supports through schools, state agencies, and other organizations.3 Between mid-November and late-December, the Commission drafted and began discussions on a document summarizing themes from the interviews and took into consideration relevant research and other key resource documents on the topic.4 The enclosed document, Safe and Supportive Schools Commission: Principles of Effective Practice for Integrating Student Supports, outlines the Commission's thinking to date on principles of effective practice for integrating student supports, which include: Whole School, Whole Child, Mindset, Confidentiality, Collaboration, Coordination, Access to Services, and Partnering with Families.

Preliminary Recommendations

The Commission notes that the principles of effective practice are already integrated to a significant extent into the currently available versions of the aforementioned framework and self-assessment tool. Therefore, the Commission recommends building upon this integration in the framework and self-assessment tool as they continue to be revised and refined.

The basic principles are currently incorporated most tangibly through the third section of the BHPS Framework and Self-Assessment Tool, titled Access to Resources and Services. This section addresses access to services and also weaves in strategies related to school-wide leadership, collaboration, coordination, confidentiality, equity, and inclusion, as well as approaches that are both whole school and whole child.

The Commission recommends that the revised versions of the framework and self-assessment tool more explicitly refer to these principles, more prominently describe where and how the principles are relevant, and provide examples to illustrate this work in practice.

Next Steps

In 2018 the Commission will continue to expand upon and refine the principles of effective practice, using the principles to develop an interview protocol to further inform one of the Commission's areas of focus: access to clinically, culturally, and linguistically appropriate services. In collaboration with the Department, the Commission plans to schedule additional interviews and focus groups with relevant stakeholders such as schools, service providers, community agencies, families, and students. These efforts can help to determine the current capacity of schools in Massachusetts to use the principles of effective practice to provide students with equitable access to necessary services and to coordinate these services, as appropriate. The Commission will discuss and summarize the information from these efforts, to inform future revisions to the framework and tool, and likely future recommendations to the Legislature, Department, and Board.

If you have questions, please contact Associate Commissioner of Student and Family Support, Rachelle Engler Bennett, via renglerbennett@doe.mass.edu, or me.

 

Enclosures:

Download Word Document
Safe and Supportive Schools Commission: Principles of Effective Practice for Integrating Student Supports
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Members of the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission

 

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Last Updated: January 18, 2018
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