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Grants and Other Financial Assistance Programs

FY2023: Playful Learning Institute Competitive Grant Program

Fund Code: 347


The purpose of this competitive grant program is to identify up to five (5) school teams to participate in the pilot of the Playful Learning Institute.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (Department's) Early Learning Team will be hosting a Playful Learning Institute (Institute) pilot initiative beginning in the spring of 2023 and continuing through the 2023-24 school year. The Institute will be designed for district and school administrators, Preschool through 3rd grade (PK–3) inclusive classroom educators, and Out-of-School Time (OST) program staff and administrators. Participants will gain tools and strategies needed to intentionally design and embed playful learning across the course of the day. The playful learning will support deep dives into content, create equitable access to learning for all children, and create many varied opportunities for authentic assessment, particularly during instructional blocks across the content areas.

The Institute will include professional development for approximately five district teams that include district and school administrators as well as two (2) educators each in PK–3. Professional development is planned to take place between April and June 2023 with exact dates to be determined and will result in coordinated grade level action plans for each team to implement in the 2023-24 school year. The grade-level action plans will focus on implementation strategies at each grade level of at least one of the following:

  • Boston Public Schools' Focus Curriculum; and/or
  • Implementation of two or more of the playful learning instructional practices (Read Alouds, Center/Studios, Writing, Storytelling/Story Acting, and Thinking and Feedback) that are utilized in this integrated curriculum; and/or
  • Other playful learning strategies learned through the professional development.

As part of the virtual/asynchronous and in-person professional development that will take place between April and June of 2023, teams will be provided with additional information on the different options for implementation strategies and be able to decide which implementation strategies they want to follow.

Additionally, for the 2023-24 school year, coaches will be assigned to work with PK–3 educators for 3–5 hours per month, as well as to coach district/school leaders for 1–2 hours per month. This in-classroom/school coaching model will be aligned with and support implementation of the action plan created by the district/school team.


The main priorities for this grant are to select and engage five (5) school teams to participate in the Institute, which include educators working with historically marginalized students, including but not limited to English learners; students on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs); students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC); and students experiencing homelessness, in foster care and/or who are migratory. The Department will consider factors such as geographic distribution when making awards.

Additionally, this RFP seeks to identify school teams with administrators and educators, PK–3, who are committed to the Department-sponsored 15-month Institute pilot. The pilot will include asynchronous professional development, a total of 10 hours of in-person professional development for each team member, creation of an action plan, participation in in-classroom and leadership-level coaching, and participation in an evaluation of the Institute.

Priority will be given to teams of educators who work together in one building, or in two buildings in districts where all 5 grade levels, PK–3, are not in the same building. Districts/schools are encouraged to invite community-based preschool and OST staff to participate in the professional development as well.

Competitive priority will be given to districts and schools in chronically underperforming status.


Massachusetts public school districts (including charter schools) and educational collaboratives not currently receiving these supports from Boston Public Schools Early Childhood Department are eligible to apply for funding.

Only one team per district is eligible to apply. In cases where there are multiple school teams interested in the Institute, Districts must prioritize which team to include.

Funding Type:

Federal CFDA (84.425) ESSER — Federal Coronavirus Relief Programs


Approximately $340,000 is available across Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 and FY2024 combined.

Applicants can apply for a total of up to $68,000 to cover expenses during FY2023 and FY2024 combined.

For FY2023, applicants should propose a budget that includes (where needed) expenses related to:

  • Substitutes and/or stipends for virtual and in-person professional development;
  • Travel for in-person professional development (location is still to be confirmed); and
  • Supplies and materials for the 10 participating classrooms, 2 educators from each grade level, PK–3rd.

Since details about professional development and supplies and materials will be determined after grants are awarded, applicants should propose estimated budget expenditures. Awarded applicants can adjust their budgets through an amendment as needed. For FY2024, applicants should propose expenses related to stipends for participation in evaluation and any local professional learning communities that may be created as a result of the Playful Learning Institute.

Approximately 30 percent of the total amount available to award is available for schools in chronically underperforming status.

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.

Fund Use:

Funds may be used to support participation of team members in the asynchronous/virtual professional development, 10 hours of in-person professional development, development of an action that will be implemented in coordination with coaches in the 2023-24 school year, and initial evaluation activities.

Fund use can include coordinator time, travel to in-person professional development, stipends, substitutes, supplies and materials.

Funds cannot be used for equipment, building/construction projects and our curricular programs.

Project Duration:

Upon Approval – 08/31/2023

Pending funding availability and contingent upon all grant requirements being met, all FY2023 grantees will be eligible for a one-year continuation grant in FY2024 (Upon Approval (anticipated 09/01/2023) through 6/30/2024) to support implementation of the action plans, participation in coaching, and engagement in related evaluation activities.

Program Unit:

Student and Family Support


Donna Traynham

Phone Number:

(781) 338-6372

Date Due:

Friday February 17th 2023*

Proposals must be received at the Department by 5:00 p.m. Eastern on the date due.

*All responses must be received by the due date listed above. Failure to do so will likely result in disqualification. Responses not received on time will likely not be reviewed. Applicants applying after the due date may be notified their application was received late and will not be reviewed. Applications must be submitted as directed in the Submissions Instructions below. Failure to do so may result in disqualification. If you need assistance with submitting your application, please reach out to the contact person listed on this funding opportunity.

Required Forms:
Additional Information:

The Department's Early Learning Team will host a drop-in Question and Answer session. If you are interested in attending this information session, please complete the registration.

All team members are required to participate in professional development (asynchronous/virtual pre-work and 10 hours of in-person professional development) and in-classroom coaching for educators and school/district leaders, both of which will be organized and held by the Department in collaboration with Boston Public School's Early Childhood Department. Additionally, grantees are required to participate in an evaluation of this pilot initiative.

While not required, the Department asks districts interested in applying to submit a Letter of Intent to Apply no later than Monday, January 27, 2023. This letter should be emailed to with the subject heading reading Playful Learning Institute LOI. This letter of intent is not binding and does not commit the district to submit an application; instead, it will help the Department to plan for the review process.

Submission Instructions:

Please submit all application materials electronically to with the subject heading reading Playful Learning Institute Application.

  • All signature pages (Part I and Grant Assurances) must be signed, scanned and submitted as 2 separate PDF documents.
  • All budgets (Part II) must be submitted as Excel files, not as PDFs.
  • Part III may be submitted as a PDF or in its original Word format.
  • Any item not submitted in the correct format may not be reviewed.

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 15, 2023

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