Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Logo
Grants and Other Financial Assistance Programs

FY2025: MassLINKS — Adult Education Virtual School

Fund Code: 0538


The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will administer the statewide Adult Education Virtual School (AEVS)- competitive grant, branded MassLINKS, consistent with Public Law 113-128, Sections 201 through 243, across 16 local workforce development areas. The MassLINKS provider will recruit, intake, orient, enroll, instruct, assess, advise, offer supportive services and post exit follow up to adult learners who are not served by programs currently funded by ACLS and/or whose need for services are not met by programs currently funded by ACLS. All services must be delivered virtually. The provider will market MassLINKS and assess MassLINKS marketing strategies.

The MassLINKS provider will:

  1. assist eligible individuals in attaining a secondary school credential and in the transition to postsecondary education and training, including through career pathways;

  2. assist eligible individuals to become literate and obtain the knowledge and skills necessary for employment and economic self-sufficiency;

  3. assist immigrants and other individuals who are English language learners in improving their English reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension skills and mathematical skills;

  4. assist eligible individuals who are parents or family members to obtain the education and skills that are necessary to become full partners in the educational development of their children and that will result in sustainable improvements in the economic opportunities for their family;

  5. reduce disparity in education by providing, in collaboration with WIOA partners and others, high quality Adult Education (AE) programming that provides an inclusive and welcoming environment, rigorous curriculum and instruction, and related services responsive to and supportive of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI);

  6. support innovation in the development of AE services to effectively serve eligible individuals most in need of services in the 16 local workforce development areas through remote instruction and in coordination and collaboration with WIOA partner services; and

  7. improve and accelerate participant outcomes, especially educational functioning level completion, high school equivalency (HSE) credential or high school diploma (ADP) attainment, and enrollment in post-secondary education or training.

ACLS has not yet developed MassLINKS specific policies. While designed for Community and Adult Learning Centers, the FY24–FY28 Massachusetts Policies for Effective Adult Education should serve as a reference guide.

The state reserves the right to (1) set policies and requirements to support the purpose and intent of the grant and (2) identify and apply state and federal regulations as needed.

The MassLINKS system provider will:

  1. manage educational operations and deliver all services virtually to adult students across the state of Massachusetts;
  2. deliver a program design which includes synchronous instruction and asynchronous instruction;
  3. serve ABE and ASE students (NRS Levels 5 and 6 are required). Additional NRS Levels to be proposed by the applicant;
  4. serve ESOL students (NRS Level 4, 5, and 6 are required). Additional NRS Levels to be proposed by the applicant;
  5. serve a minimum of 500 participants on a monthly basisi;
  6. deliver an educational experience that is of similar or superior quality when compared to adult education in-person learning.

Eligible agencies/organizations with demonstrated effectiveness in providing ABE and ESOL services, including agencies that have not previously been funded by DESE, are eligible to apply.

Agencies may include:

  1. local educational agencies;
  2. community-based organizations or faith-based organizations;
  3. volunteer literacy organizations;
  4. institutions of higher education;
  5. public or private nonprofit agencies;
  6. libraries;
  7. public housing authorities;
  8. nonprofit institutions not described in any of subparagraphs (1) through (7) which have the ability to provide literacy activities to eligible providers;
  9. consortia or coalition of the agencies, organizations, institutions, libraries or authorities described in (1) through (8);
  10. partnerships between an employer and an entity described in any of (1) through (9).

Note: As required by WIOA the applicant must demonstrate past effectiveness by submitting past performance data in serving eligible participants.

Applicants that do not provide demonstrated Past Effectiveness data in Part 3 will not be reviewed and scored.

Funding Type:

State Line Item 7035-0002


DESE anticipates that approximately $3,000,000 will be available statewide to fund the MassLINKS Adult Education Virtual School (AEVS) through state appropriation.

This RFP is the governing document for these grant funds.

Funding is contingent upon availability. Dollar amounts 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.

DESE encourages applicants to propose realistic budgets that consider the funding allocation and the program's organizational capacity. Proposed expenditures must be allowable as stated in federal and state regulations, reasonable to achieve the goals of the proposal, and adhere to the budget requirements outlined in FY24–FY28 Massachusetts Policies for Effective Adult Education in Community Adult Learning Centers and Correctional Institutions.

DESE will award funding to meritorious proposals based primarily upon the quality of the responses to this Request for Proposals. The score and rank of proposals are determined by a proposal review team.

Note: DESE may base funding decisions on the scores and ranks of proposals, as well as considerations that promote fair and equitable access to ABE and ESOL services.

Match Funding:
A specific level/percentage of Match Funding is not required with this grant. The applicant (agency) is expected to demonstrate full agency support through its own allocation of funding to MassLINKS through its match funding budget.

Fund Use:

The provider selected would operate as a service provider under Title II Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) funding whose charge is to provide adult basic education and English language skills acquisition to eligible students.

Funds must be used in accordance with FY24–FY28 Massachusetts Policies for Effective Adult Education in Community Adult Learning Centers and Correctional Institutions to provide adult education to eligible students; eligible students are:

  • are at least 16 years of age;
  • are not enrolled or required to be enrolled in secondary school under state law; and
  • do not have a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent and have not achieved an equivalent level of education; or are basic skills deficient; or are English language learners.

Students under 18 must provide a letter of withdrawal from the local school district in order to enroll in the program. Students who are home schooled must provide a letter from the local school district stating that they are not enrolled.

Preferred Student Populations include:

  • adult learners never enrolled in a DESE funded AE program;
  • adult learners with challenges that make it difficult to attend existing in-person adult education programming;
  • adult learners who need to complete fewer than 4 subtests to obtain their HSE credential;
  • adult learners in rural communities;
  • adult learners with learning differences whose specific needs are not met in their current instructional setting;
  • adult learners who are in need of instruction which is purposefully developed for those with learning disabilities;
  • students who are pregnant or have a child/students with specific childcare needs that prevent them from attending in-person services;
  • students who have been set back in their education due to the pandemic and want to complete their HSE credential.

As defined by the Code of Federal Regulations, 34 CFR §463.25 and §463.26, not less than 95 percent of funds must be spent on adult education direct services and literacy activities. If awarded, programs may negotiate on an individual basis with DESE to determine an adequate level of funds for non-instructional purposes by submitting a written request and rationale annually with their continuation applications. Administrative costs must be reasonable, necessary, and allocable.

Adult Education and Family Literacy Services is a restricted rate program that is subject to a statutory "supplement not supplant" restriction. For this competition, applicants may include indirect cost rates to recover certain business-related expenses necessary to support the proposed services.

  • Local Education Agencies (LEA) may apply their district rate.
  • A non-LEA that has a current federally approved restricted indirect cost rate may use that rate.
  • A non-LEA that has an FY24 approved indirect cost rate may use that rate. However, if awarded a grant, the agency must reapply to DESE for FY25 and annually through the grant cycle (2 CFR 200.332).
  • A non-LEA that does not have either a Federal or DESE approved indirect cost rate may budget up to 8% percent of the agency's proposed budget to recover certain business-related expenses. However, if awarded a grant, the agency must apply to DESE for FY25 and that there is no guarantee that the rate will be approved (2 CFR 200.332).

Funds may not be used to support in person activities.

Project Duration:

State Funded: Upon Approval (no earlier than 7/1/2024) – 6/30/2025; conditionally renewable for up to additional four years.

Renewals are subject to satisfactory performance, the appropriation of state and federal funds, and the continuance of federal authorizing legislation. Total grant award duration will not exceed five years (initial year plus 4 renewals)

Pending appropriation and the meeting of grant requirements, awarded grantees may be eligible for continuation grant(s) in Fiscal Year(s) 2026-2029

Program Unit:

Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Contact and Inquiries:

Paula Jurigian

All inquiries must be submitted in writing to question portal. Q&A with answers to inquiries will be posted to ACLS Funding Opportunities on the ACLS website.

Requests for assistance with submitting inquiries or locating the Q&A may be directed to the ACLS receptionist at (781) 338-3850.

The deadline for submission of questions is Friday, March 8, 2024.

It is the responsibility of applicants to remain up to date with the posted questions and answers. Any RFP updates or revisions contained in the Q&A will supersede previous versions of the same.

Date Due:

Friday, March 22, 2024 by 5:00 pm Eastern*

All responses must be submitted as directed in the Submissions Instructions section of this RFP. Failure to do so may result in disqualification. Responses not submitted on time will not be reviewed. If you need assistance with submitting your application, please reach out to the contact person listed in this RFP.

Bidders' Virtual Conference:

  • Prospective applicants are invited to a Virtual Bidders' Conference to be held on: Friday, February 16, 2024 via Zoom from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
    Join Zoom Meeting

*All responses must be received by the due date listed above. Failure to do so will result in disqualification. Responses not received on time will 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.

GEM$ Required Forms:

All Grant Application Pages Required to be submitted in GEM$:

Part One: General Information

  • Cover Page
  • Program Design/Class Plan Page
  • Staff Roster/Fringe Page
  • Statement of Assurances Page
  • General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) Page
  • Related Documents: None for this Section

GEM$ Part Two: Budget and ISA Documents

Part Three: Required Program Information

  • Narrative Page for MassLINKS Applicants: Required Program Information is embedded in the GEM$ online submission form. The responses to the 10 Indicators of Program Quality (IPQ) have a value of 100 points. The responses will be answered in GEM$ with all other required documents.
  • Executive Summary Page: The Executive Summary should provide a broad overview of proposed adult education services and how they align with the program mission.

Part Four: Related Documents (Uploaded in GEMS on Related Documents)

  • Past Performance and Effectiveness Data
  • Letter(s) of Support (maximum of 3)
  • Resumes and Job Descriptions of Program's Educational Leaders
  • Sample Teacher Observation and Annual Evaluation Templates Used by Applicant
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), if applicable
  • Audit Report (only for community-based organizations) — a copy of the applying agency's latest completed audit report, issued by an independent certified public accountant. If an audit report is not included, the proposal will not be considered.

Data and information provided in required documents, or in documents uploaded in one section, may also be referenced for consideration in another section. Each narrative section will be scored using the Scoring Rubric.

Note: DESE reserves the right to evaluate applicants through a site visit prior to issuing a Grant Award Notification.

GEM$ Submission Instructions:

The FY25 FC0538 MassLINKS — Adult Education Virtual School will be submitted in our new GEM$ system. GEM$ is a cloud-based fiscal and program management grant system that will eventually phase out the use of EdGrants.

Grants for Education Management System (GEM$)

Competitive grant applications are considered submitted when the Superintendent / Chief Executive approves the grant application in GEM$. In order to be considered for competitive funding, applicants must submit a grant application by the due date listed in the RFP.

The Superintendent / Chief Executive Approved Step allows for the organization lead to review and approve the grant application. Removing the requirement for the Part I Standard Contract Form, this step signifies Superintendent /Chief Executive sign off. Any grant budget changes requiring signature, will re-execute this step when amended signifying the organization lead is approving these changes.

Please Note: Grant Submission requires applicants to have their organization established in GEM$. Entities that do not have an organization in GEM$ must contact the DESE Program Unit issuing this grant at a minimum 5 business days prior to the grant due date for temporary organization access.

Failure to provide DESE with GEMS Request Form at least 5 business days prior to the due date may result in not meeting the submission due date listed above. DESE cannot accept or review applications after the due date.

Additional Information:

Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS website)

FY24–FY28 Massachusetts Policies for Effective Adult Education in Community Adult Learning Centers and Correctional Institutions

Accountability System

Indicators of Program Quality

2020-2024 WIOA Massachusetts Combined State Plan

FY22-FY25 WIOA 4-Year Local Plans by MassHire Workforce Area

FY2022 - FY2025 WIOA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Regional Labor Market Blueprint

Guidance for Adult Education — Shared Customers

Professional Standards for Adult Educators (ESOL, ELA, and Mathematics)

College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education

Massachusetts English Language Proficiency Standards for Adult Education

Adult Education Glossary (found under Links/Resources section)

Additional Information for Colleges / State Agencies
The information below is intended for state entities that require ISAs as part of their grant award process. Not intended for Private or Community Based Organizations.

State Agencies with ISAs:
Waiver filed with ANF to reduce the amount of indirect charged to these grant funds in MMARS. It is the responsibility of the applying entity that is a state agency to file an indirect waiver request with ANF and send a copy of the approved request to CTR. DESE cannot request indirect waivers on behalf of state agencies. (See Fund Use section for more info; See Additional Information for Colleges/State Agencies section for the ANF Waiver Request Form)

i awards are based on monthly enrollment targets applicable for the period from September to June. In order to maintain funded enrollment levels, programs must retain students or enroll new ones as students leave. These ACLS targets from September to June are used as a component when evaluating funding and performance. Grant awards may be reduced when enrollment patterns are below target over a period of time.

Last Updated: February 8, 2024

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.