The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Family Engagement Initiative Updates

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner
March 15, 2019

Family engagement is an important focus area for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department). It is embedded in the Department's strategic priority to support social-emotional learning, health and safety Download PDF Document and in the Consolidated State Plan Download Word Document that we filed under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The Department promotes family engagement as a key lever that contributes to positive outcomes for students, and we provide training, technical assistance, resources, and guidance to schools and partners on effective family engagement strategies. Board members have expressed interest in learning more about our activities in this area. At the March 26, 2019 Board meeting, the Department will provide information about three of our family engagement initiatives.

Prenatal through Post-Secondary Family Engagement Framework

In September 2017, Massachusetts engaged in a technical assistance opportunity through the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to build a Prenatal through Post-Secondary family engagement framework. The approach included a cross-secretariat collaboration in order to build a framework that could be used in the education, health, and human services sectors, recognizing that student success is a responsibility of families, schools, and community partners. As part of this national effort, the Commonwealth has had access to technical assistance from CCSSO as well as the National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement, the Mid-Atlantic Equity Center, and the Policy Equity Group.

States were required to have a coalition to guide the development of the framework. Massachusetts has formed a state-local coalition, co-led by Department staff, that reflects representation from families, practitioners (e.g., health, libraries, museums, early education and care programs, home visitors, school and district administrators, and higher education faculty) as well as staff from 11 state agencies representing the education and health and human services secretariats. This more than 300-member coalition has worked over the last 12 months through regional meetings to develop a roadmap to family engagement (the new draft framework) that builds on existing family engagement frameworks, integrates principles of equity and cultural responsiveness, and provides an aligned approach to engaging with families.

Statewide Family Engagement Center (SFEC) Federal Grant

In the summer of 2018, Massachusetts applied for and received a federally-funded Statewide Family Engagement Center (SFEC) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. As one of 12 awarded applicants, Massachusetts will access approximately $4.6 million over the next five years to implement programming that supports the implementation and enhancement of systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement. The Federation for Children with Special Needs serves as the lead agent for the grant.

As part of the grant's goals and objectives, by spring 2019 the Department will hire a full-time family engagement specialist to assist in building internal capacity of staff to support districts and schools in working to building meaningful partnerships with families around student learning and success. Additionally, the Parent Institute for Quality Education, English for New Bostonians, and Collaborative for Parent Leadership Action Network are partners in the grant to build local capacity for family engagement, starting with pilot efforts in Lawrence and New Bedford, and then expanding to additional communities. The framework described above and the Family Institute for Student Success described below will inform and drive the federal grant efforts over the next five years.

Family Institute for Student Success (FISS) Initiative

In November 2018, through a contract with the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), the Department began a pilot family engagement project to provide training and technical assistance to schools in New Bedford and Lawrence to implement the culturally responsive PIQE family engagement in education program. This curriculum was selected because it is research-based and specific to pre-K/elementary, middle school, and high school with a strong focus on engaging families who are English learners and supported by an ongoing coaching model.

The Family Institute for Student Success is a nine-week institute designed to provide families with the knowledge and skills to partner effectively with schools to support student achievement. Additionally, training is provided to school administrators, educators, and community-based organizations on how to more effectively engage families as partners.

Board Meeting Discussion

At the March 26 Board meeting, Rachelle Engler Bennett, associate commissioner, Student and Family Support, will introduce the panel. Donna Traynham, the Department's Early Learning Team leader in the Office of Student and Family Support, will then present information about the draft Prenatal through Post-Secondary Family Engagement framework, the SFEC grant, and the FISS training initiative. Maria Campusano, family partnerships manager for the Lawrence Public Schools, will also join us to discuss the district's experience with the FISS initiative. Additionally, Eva Kelly, director of enrollment and family engagement for the Fitchburg Public Schools, who is a member of the Board's Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council, will join the presentation. We look forward to discussing these initiatives with the Board and responding to your questions.