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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:March 12, 2010


This month the Board will discuss our efforts regarding the behavioral health of our students. As background for the discussion, I am pleased to report on the work of the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force, which I chair. This Task Force was established under Section 19 of Chapter 321 of the Acts of 2008: an Act Relative to Children's Mental Health. The Task Force was convened in December 2008. A list of Task Force members is included in the Behavioral Health and Public School Interim Report that was submitted to the legislature in December 2009.

The charge of the Task Force is to develop a "behavioral health services framework" to improve educational outcomes for students who experience behavioral health challenges. We know that all too often students with such challenges do poorly in school, and some end up dropping out or being suspended or expelled.

The behavioral health services framework addresses:

  • leadership;
  • professional development for school personnel and behavioral health providers;
  • access to clinically, linguistically, and culturally appropriate behavioral health services;
  • policies and protocols for referrals;
  • academic and non-academic approaches; and
  • collaboration with families.

In alignment with the framework, the Task Force created an assessment tool to measure schools' capacities in these areas. The tool is designed to assist schools to review and document their current practices, as well as to provide strategies to consider implementing in the future. Fifteen school districts piloted the tool in the fall and provided feedback and suggestions for improvement in December 2009.

Since submitting the Interim Report, the Task Force has been working to improve the framework and assessment tool based on feedback from the pilot school districts. Within the next several months, a diverse group of approximately 80 schools will be invited to participate in using the updated assessment tool between spring and mid-summer 2010. The Task Force plans to use the findings from this expanded statewide pilot to make a final set of recommendations during fiscal year 2011 on how to improve the capacity of schools to implement the framework.

While this work is taking place, the department is beginning to revise and update its Comprehensive Health Education curriculum framework, which was completed in October of 1999. The revision of the Health framework will be informed in part by the work of the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force. In addition, other stakeholders and interested parties will participate in the Comprehensive Health Education curriculum framework revision.

Associate Commissioner John Bynoe and I will be pleased to respond to your questions at the March 23rd Board meeting.


Interim Report to the Legislature: The Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force

Last Updated: March 17, 2010
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