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Grants and Other Financial Assistance Programs

FY2020: Systems for Student Success Initiative

Fund Code: 248


The competitive Systems for Student Success (SfSS) initiative is designed to support districts that want to thoughtfully examine and significantly strengthen systems and core practices that can either promote or hinder students' ability to thrive in and outside of school. Many districts are working hard to more proactively and holistically support their students. Often, however, our structures, policies, and approaches are relics from years, if not decades, in the past and are no longer in alignment with current research, evidence-based practice, or the lives and needs of the students and families that we serve. Rather than simply adding new programs, instructional tools/resources, or ad hoc trainings, SfSS is focused on fundamentally changing "the way we do school" and the role that districts play in supporting schools. Grant funds through SfSS may be used for staff stipends, consultants, substitutes, professional development and materials to be used in the implementation of system-level changes.


Systems for Student Success Priorities

Through the SfSS initiative, participating districts are asked to identify and focus on specific priorities to eliminate inequities and/or foster all students' success. Districts should select 1-3 priorities from the following list:

  1. Family Engagement: Significantly improve relationships with families and develop systems to communicate and collaborate with families in ways that are meaningful and inclusive.
  2. Restorative Practices/Positive Behavioral Support: Ensure behavioral support practices/policies are positive, restorative, and consistently implemented; develop systems and routines to continuously monitor for disproportionate, punitive, and/or ineffective practices/policies.
  3. Mindset and Capacity to Integrate SEL & Academics: Cultivate adult mindset and capacity to support all students' academic and social-emotional development in an effective, integrated manner.
  4. Diversify Staffing: Recruit and retain leaders and educators who are more reflective of students and communities served.
  5. Integrated Data Systems: Build and/or improve data systems (assessment tools, data collection/analysis methods, platforms, etc.) to enable the collection and triangulated use of school climate, social-emotional, academic, and student support data.
  6. Universal Student Support: Strengthen our systems and teaming structures to regularly and proactively assess each student's strengths and needs, identify and provide appropriate support strategies/interventions, and monitor the efficacy/impact of those strategies to ensure student needs are being met.
  7. Culturally Responsive Teaching: Develop and/or improve culturally responsive teaching practices and learning environments for all students and staff.
  8. Mitigate the Impact of Poverty and/or Trauma: Build staff capacity and systems to support a greater range of student needs related to poverty and trauma.
  9. Adult Culture: Foster a positive, collaborative culture of learning for staff and support their social emotional learning and well-being in order to reduce burnout and improve retention.
  10. District-Identified Priority: Districts can propose a priority not included on the list above that is in alignment with the goals of this grant.

Addressing SfSS Priorities Using a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) Lens

In order to have a deep and lasting impact in any of the priorities listed above, districts will identify specific systems that need to be developed or altered. One way to think about these systems is through a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework. MTSS is not just about tiered interventions or services; it is about how all the systems in a school or district work together to ensure a high quality educational experience for each and every student. Last year, DESE updated its MTSS Blueprint to reflect current best practices and improve usability for practitioners. In particular, the new Blueprint explicitly highlights the need to integrate academic, behavioral, and social emotional learning, places a stronger emphasis on the themes of equity and access for all students, and articulates the system-level drivers (leadership, competency, and implementation) required to effectively operationalize this work. These system drivers include:

  1. Leadership Drivers:
    1. Structures to foster shared responsibility and collaboration, including the development of equitable policies and procedures
    2. Strategic resource allocation (people, time, and funding)
    3. Meaningful student, family, and community engagement
    4. Scientifically-based, long-term planning model
  2. Competency Drivers:
    1. Staff recruitment, selection, and induction
    2. Professional development and coaching
    3. Feedback and evaluation
  3. Implementation Drivers:
    1. Use of a tiered continuum of evidence-based practices (that are also aligned with the standards)
    2. Systems to monitor implementation fidelity
    3. Data-based decision making (including the use of social emotional, behavioral, and climate-related data)

Through the SfSS grant, districts can work towards making systems-level changes using the lens of these MTSS drivers. For example, if a district selected Family Engagement as one of their SfSS priorities, some of the system changes they might pursue could include:

  • Leadership: Developing systems to deeply engage families in the development of school/district policies, procedures, and plans; regularly soliciting and responding to family feedback using multiple methods of data collection (including surveys, focus groups, etc.); and ensuring that parents who are representative of the school community are included on key leadership teams
  • Competency: Providing customer service training and ongoing coaching for all staff who interact with families; including family engagement as a key learning objective for new staff induction, followed up with ongoing coaching for new teachers; setting clear expectations for how and when educators should be communicating with and engaging families and leveraging the evaluation system to reinforce those expectations
  • Implementation: Identifying and collecting data to assess the level of partnership/engagement with parents and families; implementing evidence based strategies to support family engagement (e.g., home visits, parent academies, Academic Parent-Teacher Teams, etc.)

Technical Assistance:
In addition to funding, SfSS will provide technical assistance support. Support can include (but is not limited to): individual and group phone calls with initiative leads, district site visits, strategic planning support, and one annual in-person convening (in Years 2 and 3). The grant will also include a mid-year progress visit with DESE and support partners. This visit will help take stock of progress made on grant priorities, review outcome-related data, and identify next steps and/or needed supports for future phases of work. District leadership is expected to participate in the mid-year progress visits (for example: Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent) as well as leadership from the grant team.

Applications will be reviewed and award decisions will be made based on the following criteria: selection of relevant priority(ies) with clear rationale for why these are the right priorities for the district at this time, appropriate and strategic use of funding that is aligned with priorities and system-level changes, identification of relevant outcome metrics to measure impact of systems-level changes, alignment of plan with overall district planning processes, overall quality of the response.


All districts are eligible to apply for this grant. However, districts with schools in the lowest 10th percentile in need of targeted/focused and/or broad/comprehensive support will be prioritized for funding.

Funding Type:

Federal CFDA:84.027


The Department has approximately $400,000 allocated for SfSS grants through August 31, 2020. Funding is contingent upon availability. All dollar amounts listed are estimated/approximate and are subject to change. If more funding becomes available it will be distributed under the same guidelines that appear in this RFP document. Districts are asked to submit a 3-year proposal and grant funds will be renewable each year subject to funding availability and performance during the previous year.

Each applicant district may apply for no more than $40,000 per year, for three years, to implement systems and strategies identified in their district plan. Funding for subsequent years is subject to availability and successful performance in the previous grant year. Projected funding amounts:

  • FY20 (Upon Approval - August 31, 2020): Up to $40,000
  • FY21 (Upon Approval (no earlier than September 1, 2020) - August 31, 2021): Up to $40,000
  • FY22 (Upon Approval (no earlier than September 1, 2021) - August 31, 2022): Up to $40,000

Funding is contingent upon availability. All dollar amounts listed are estimated/approximate and are subject to change.

Fund Use:

Grant funds must be used to implement systems and strategies outlined in submitted plans. Grant funds may be used for staff stipends, consultants, substitutes, professional development and materials to be used in the implementation of system-level changes.

Project Duration:

Upon approval - 8/ 31 /2020

Renewals from Upon Approval (no earlier than September 1, 2020) - August 31, 2021 and Upon Approval (no earlier than September 1, 2021) - August 31, 2022 (Subject to funding availability and performance during previous grant year)

FY20 Year 1 (Upon Approval - August 31, 2020): Note all Year 1 funds must be spent by August 31, 2020. There is no option to rollover funds from Year 1 to Year 2.

  • March 16, 2020: Grant application due by 12pm
  • April 2020: Grants awarded
  • April 2020-June 2020: TA support, as needed, to refine plans and solidify next steps for implementation
  • August 2020: Update DESE on Year 1 spending (funds must be spent by August 31st) and discuss any changes to Year 2 plans/li>

FY21-22 Years 2 & 3 (Upon Approval (no earlier than September 1, 2020) - August 31, 2021 and Upon Approval (no earlier than September 1, 2021)-August 31, 2022)

  • September 2020 and 2021: Start of Years 2 and 3
  • January-February: Mid-year check in
  • Bi-monthly lead calls
  • TA as needed (in-district visits and/or phone calls/zoom meetings)
  • 1 in person convening for lead teams each year
  • August 2021 and 2022: Update DESE of Years 2 and 3 spending, progress, and next steps

Program Unit:

Systems for Student Success Office


Rebecca Shor

Phone Number:

(781) 338-3559

Date Due:

Monday, March 16, 2020

Proposals must be received at the Department by 12:00 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:

Email submission to Rebecca Shor and submit 2 sets, 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

Awarded Recipients: Upon award, recipients will be required to enter the approved budget and Part I in EdGrants. Once selected, recipients will be contacted with further instructions on the process.

Last Updated: February 27, 2020

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