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Grants and Other Financial Assistance Programs: FY2017

Systems for Student Success Action Plan Grant
Fund Code: 220

Purpose: The Systems for Student Success grant is designed to help districts identify and prioritize strategies to systematically address the barriers that impede students' ability to fully engage in the learning process and succeed in and out of school. These barriers might include:
  • Insufficient or ineffective approaches for supporting the social emotional aspects of learning, (e.g., developing students' social emotional competencies and fostering academic engagement and motivation through personalization, student voice and choice);
  • Lack of a safe and supportive school and classroom climate;
  • Punitive, poor or unfair behavior management and disciplinary practices;
  • Ineffective family-school communication and collaboration;
  • Reactive rather than proactive, student support practices;
  • Ineffective, and potentially even detrimental practices around language and cultural competence;
  • Health and mental health challenges faced by students;
  • Adult capacity to support youth affected by trauma and/or poverty; and
  • Housing, transportation, and other challenges related to basic needs, poverty and economic instability.
Many districts/schools that are engaged in efforts to dramatically increase student achievement focus on strong instructional interventions and structures (data teams, common planning time, new assessment strategies, supplemental academic supports, etc.). While these represent critical pieces of the school improvement puzzle, they do not automatically lead to improved academic performance. For the past 5+ years, the Department has been studying the practices and performance of underperforming schools in the Commonwealth. Through this research, DESE has identified specific "drivers" of rapid improvement and chronicled the findings via a series of reports and tools that can be found here: Turnaround Practices Evaluation and Research. The research demonstrates that successful turnaround schools not only establish effective systems to promote academic leadership, instruction and intervention, but explicitly address students' social emotional and health needs through the creation of a positive climate, tiered systems of support and strong family engagement.

These findings are further supported by research on the Massachusetts Race to the Top project, Wraparound Zones (WAZ). The initiative aimed to build school and district capacity to address students' barriers to learning and placed a heavy emphasis on strategies to foster social emotional development and to mitigate the effects of poverty and trauma. An independent evaluation of WAZ found that the initiative had a positive qualitative and quantitative impact, including statistically significant gains on math and English language arts MCAS scores. This work both complements and supplements the Turnaround Practices research and is documented through the "Wraparound Zone Replication Cookbook."

The Systems for Student Success grant will leverage the Turnaround Practices and Wraparound Zone research and enable districts to assess where their most significant barriers to learning exist, identify systems and strategies to address them, and develop an action plan to effectively implement those systems and strategies.

Priorities & Participation Requirements: The Systems for Student Success action planning grant provides districts with a six-month opportunity to review and analyze data on academic performance, school climate, family engagement, learner engagement, behavior, and other areas to identify where and how to target improvement. It is intended to highlight the impact we can have on student achievement when we focus systemically on the intersection of academic performance and "non-academic" barriers to learning. The Department also plans to offer implementation grants to participating districts in subsequent fiscal years (pending available funding).

Each participating district will be expected to:
  • Participate in a facilitated self-assessment, data analysis and prioritization process. This will involve a leadership/planning team and 2-3 district-based meetings designed to dovetail with district/school improvement planning.
  • Collect and analyze data that captures the "conditions for learning" within the district/schools (e.g., school climate, academic engagement, student support, social emotional learning and family engagement). This data will be used to inform current and future planning.
  • Participate in two cross-district meetings with other grantees participating in this project.
  • Develop an action plan that describes specific systems and strategies to target high priority barriers to learning.
The assessment and action planning process will focus on these practices and conditions:
  1. Overall school climate;
  2. Adult culture/collaboration (administration-staff, staff-to-staff, administration/staff-families);
  3. Holistic data use (i.e., integrated use of both academic and social emotional data to identify school-wide as well as student-specific needs and interventions);
  4. High quality, student-responsive instruction that addresses the social emotional aspects of learning;
  5. Proactive tiered systems of academic and social emotional supports that maximize school, district, and community resources;
  6. Effective strategies to engage families as full partners in their children's education;
  7. Using schedules and time to assess student barriers and provide adequate academic and social emotional supports;
  8. Promoting culturally competent learning environments and practices;
  9. Positive discipline and behavior practices;
  10. Other strategies to mitigate the impact of poverty and trauma on learning; and
  11. Strategic use of human capital and braided funding approaches to sustainably address the aforementioned priorities.
Eligibility:Level 3, 4, or 5 districts throughout the Commonwealth are eligible to apply. Applicants must involve district staff (to develop district level systems) and propose two or more of their schools (at least one of which is a Level 3, 4 or 5 school) to pilot this work. Districts may also consider applying in collaboration with each other.
Fund Use:Grant funds must be used to develop action plans that address the priorities of this grant opportunity. Grant funds may be used for staff stipends, data collection consultants, substitutes, professional development and materials to be used in the development of district/school action plans. Funds must be used to develop action plans that address the priorities of this grant opportunity.
Funding:Each applicant district may apply for up to $25,000 to create a district and school(s) action plan. The Department has $177,000 total allocated for this project in FY2017.

Applications will be reviewed and award decisions will be made based on the following criteria: alignment of proposal with grant priorities and requirements; demonstrated readiness to effectively engage in the initiative and alignment with district strategic priorities; sound selection of participating schools; appropriate and strategic fund use proposal; and overall quality of the response.
Project Duration:Upon approval/January 1 - June 30, 2017

The Department also plans to offer implementation grants to participating districts in subsequent fiscal years (pending available funding).
Program Unit:Systems for Student Success Office
Contact:Rebecca Shor
Phone Number:(781) 338-3559
Date Due:Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Proposals must be received at the Department by 5:00 p.m. on the date due.

Required Forms:
Download Word Document
Part I - General - Program Unit Signature Page - (Standard Contract Form and Application for Program Grants)
Download Excel Document
Part II - Budget Workbook
Download Word Document
Part III - Required Program Information
Submission Instructions: Submit 3 sets, each with an original signature of the Superintendent.

Mail to:

Rebecca Shor
Systems for Student Success Office
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148-4906

Last Updated: November 9, 2016
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