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Student and Family Support (SFS)

Office of Student and Family Support (SFS)

The Office of Student and Family Support (SFS) works in partnership with educators, schools, students, families, and other agencies and organizations across the Commonwealth to advance the Department's mission. Our programs and initiatives aim to ensure access to high quality and student-centered pre-K-grade 12 education and strengths-based supports.

This work helps further the Department's strategic priorities Download PDF Document, including but not limited to supporting social emotional learning, health, and safety Download Word Document.

Examples of SFS program strategies that cultivate student achievement and success include:

  • making data-informed decisions to address achievement and proficiency gaps,
  • infusing service-learning, multi-disciplinary, and/or meaningful project-based activities into curricula,
  • providing professional development and technical assistance for continuous program improvement,
  • engaging families/guardians in student learning,
  • creating safe and supportive learning environments,
  • fostering positive behavioral health,
  • supporting smooth transitions between grades and schools, and
  • promoting interagency and school/community collaboration.

Unit Programs and Related Initiatives:

Early Learning

The delivery of high quality early learning opportunities that create a continuum of learning from birth through grade three can help close proficiency gaps and build a foundation for future success. SFS's Early Learning team provides guidance and coordination around policies and issues that relate to pre-kindergarten to grade three alignment initiatives.

There are a number of collaborative initiatives within and between the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Department of Early Care and Education, schools, community providers, and other partners to support all children in their development and learning. Related resources that can support a pre-kindergarten to grade three framework include the following:

  • Fostering Learning in the Early Years: Elements of High Quality Kindergarten Download Word Document is a resource that was jointly developed by staff from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department), the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), and Early Childhood Coordinators from public school districts across the Commonwealth. While aligned with EEC's Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for preschool programs, this document provides a framework for thinking about how to support kindergarten students (primarily 5 and 6-year olds) in meeting high standards through the provision of developmentally appropriate classroom practices. There is a companion Self-Assessment Download Excel Document tool that was created to assist districts in reflecting and assessing on the extent to which district, school and classroom kindergarten practices are aligned with the indicators outlined in Fostering Learning in the Early Years: Elements of High Quality Kindergarten.

  • Resources and information about Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) are available on the Office of Special Education Planning and Policy's website. ECSE services are designed for young children (aged 3-5) with disabilities who need specially designed instruction or related services and whose disability(ies) causes the children to be unable to participate in developmentally appropriate typical preschool activities. ECSE programs ensure that children with disabilities have a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) that is designed to meet their unique needs and enable them to make progress in acquiring knowledge and skills, including social emotional skills, within the general education program.

  • A Framework for Planning, Implementing and Evaluating PreK-3rd Grade Approaches is a self assessment tool for communities and/or districts to use in determining their progress and success in PreK-3 efforts (developed by Kauerz and Coffman from the University of Washington). The Framework helps to address key questions facing those who are developing PreK-3rd grade approaches in their school, district, or community.

Educational Stability

The Educational Stability Team works to ensure children and youth who are homeless, in foster care, migrant, or in military families have full access to a consistent public education.

Extended Learning Opportunities

Extended learning opportunities provide time beyond the traditional school day to support learning and development in children and youth. High quality programs and initiatives can complement and enhance a student's school experiences, strengthen family involvement and engagement, provide time for teacher collaboration, and fortify school-community partnerships. Through a variety of initiatives and programs, many schools and communities provide comprehensive services for youth to develop academically, physically, emotionally, and civically.

Efforts supported through the SFS unit include the following:

  • Federally-funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) programs operate during out-of-school hours and engage students in challenging, creative, hands-on, project based activities that connect to and support school day programming while promoting self-expression, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. The 21st CCLC programs provide students with the opportunity to internalize their learning and gain a greater understanding of content areas by embedding academics into rich and engaging activities. As a result of the ESEA approved flexibility, (and ESSA) a portion of the competitively awarded 21st CCLC programs now support expanded learning time activities (during a longer school day).

  • State-funded After-School and Out-of-School Time (ASOST) Quality Enhancement Grants are designed to increase and enhance comprehensive and effective ASOST programming for students in grades K-12. Grants support children's and youth's academic, social, and emotional development outside of the regular school day, for public and non-public school age students during the school year and over the summer months.

Extended learning opportunities are delivered through many forms. State-funded Expanded Learning Time (ELT) Schools also use longer school days and/or years to help all students in the school meet higher performance standards by providing additional time for core academics, teacher leadership and collaboration, and enrichment opportunities. The Department also supports this work through additional programs and initiatives, such as Charter Schools, Innovation Schools, and School Turnaround Grants.

Public School Operated School-Age Child Care Programs, operated by a public school, on a regular basis, that provide supervised group care for school-age children during out-of-school time, or during remote learning time during the COVID-19 pandemic, are required to register through this online form with the Department. A copy of the required registration information Download Word Document can be used to prepare information to enter online. Programming offered must align with the Quality Standards for Public School Operated School-Age Child Care Programs Download Word Document, wherever appropriate, and be in accordance with local school/district policy and procedure.

Development of Remote Learning Enrichment Centers. Communities returning to school with hybrid or fully remote learning models face increased need for supplemental support and supervision for school-aged children during the school day. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) have collaborated to develop policies in support of access to remote learning enrichment centers. The policies related to such centers operated by community-based programs can be found in the Joint Guidance from the Department of Early Education and Care and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Care Options for Hybrid and Remote Learning Models Download PDF Document. Additional information is also available in an FAQ related to public-school operated remote learning enrichment centers. A recommended sliding fee scale Download Word Document for use with families earning up to 100% of State Median Income (SMI) is also available for public school districts that are considering charging for remote learning enrichment centers.

Promoting Adolescent Health through School-Based HIV/STD Prevention and Surveillance

The following programs build and strengthen districts' capacity to employ evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention efforts designed to improve child and adolescent health, safe and support learning environments, and school success. The programs have an overarching goal of reducing teen birth rates, reducing HIV/STDs among adolescents, and providing school-based surveillance.

  • School-Based HIV/STD Prevention: In cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)'s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH), the Department supports eleven priority school districts to serve as HIV/STD prevention models, promoting child and adolescent health through evidence-based strategies to: develop exemplary sexual health education programs; increase student's access to key sexual health and other support services, particularly LGBT appropriate services; establish safe and supportive environments for students and staff; and implement policies and procedures related to safe and supportive environments, access to health services, and exemplary sexual health education.

  • School-Based Surveillance: Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department collects data on youth and school health policies and practices through the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and School Health Profiles (Profiles). The YRBS and Profiles are resources for both longitudinal and emerging data on adolescent health and school health policies and practices.

  • Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP): In partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, this project integrates community and school services to deliver medically accurate, culturally proficient, age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education to young people ages 10-19. The Department funds districts with the greatest disparities in educational and reproductive health outcomes to implement evidence based teen pregnancy prevention programs in middle schools. All programs are required to prepare young people for adulthood by implementing lessons and activities that address healthy relationships, adolescent development and financial literacy. This initiative is funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Safe & Healthy Learning Environments

Providing a safe and healthy learning environment is a key to helping students develop essential skills and knowledge necessary for college and career readiness. A wide range of services and supports are needed to create and sustain these learning environments. A number of Department and related resources can help school districts and communities build these environments for all students. These initiatives and resources include but are not limited to the Massachusetts Tiered System of Supports, the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Framework and Self-Assessment Tool, the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission, the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, a rethinking discipline professional learning network, and other Safe and Supportive Schools Initiatives (including the Safe and Supportive Schools Competitive Grant — Fund Code 335).

The Department is currently in the process of reviewing and revising the Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Framework.

Additional Related Programs & Efforts

College and Career Readiness

The College and Career Readiness (CCR) initiative is focused on improving high schools and strengthening the high school diploma for all students, as well as coordinating statewide efforts through a grade PK-16 strategy. Part of this work involves defining "what is college ready" and identifying the types and characteristics of courses that prepare students for success in both college and a career.

Dropout Reduction

The Department's Dropout Reduction website is designed to offer information and resources related to high school dropout prevention, intervention, and recovery in Massachusetts as well as nationally.

Educator Effectiveness Guidebook for Inclusive Practice

Created by Massachusetts educators, this Guidebook includes tools for districts, schools, and educators that are aligned to the MA Educator Evaluation Framework and promote evidence-based best practices for inclusion following the principles of Universal Design for Learning, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, and Social and Emotional Learning. Inclusive practice refers to the instructional and behavioral strategies that improve academic and social-emotional outcomes for all students, with and without disabilities, in general education settings. To support inclusive practice, the tools of this Guidebook are based on the frameworks of Universal Design for Learning, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Download PDF Document, and Social and Emotional Learning Download PDF Document. This guidebook is a comprehensive set of tools related to and aligned with all major components of the Educator Evaluation system (e.g. rubrics, observation, artifacts, goal-setting, administrator evaluation, common assessments and student feedback).

Prenatal through Young Adulthood Family Engagement Framework Download PDF Document

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is pleased to share the Prenatal through Young Adulthood Family Engagement Framework for Massachusetts. The framework was developed collaboratively with 11 state agencies representing both the Education Secretariat and the Health and Human Services Secretariat; as such, the framework is written to serve as a general roadmap to family engagement for practitioners in the education, health and human services sectors.

This document is the culmination of many meetings of both the state and regional family engagement coalitions, input from hundreds of state agency staff, practitioners and families who cross the health, human services and education sectors, focus groups with families and youth as well as feedback from our national technical assistance partners, including the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement (NAFSCE) and the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium.

For an interactive (i.e., page flipping) version of the framework, visit Strengthening Partnerships.

Massachusetts Family, School, and Community Partnership Fundamentals (the Fundamentals) Download Word Document

The Fundamentals are the result of a statewide collaborative process of defining guidelines and research-based practices for the engagement of families, schools, and communities in supporting equitable learning opportunities for students. This process was coordinated by the Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council (PCEIAC) of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Fundamentals recognize that family and community engagement involves everything parents and families do to support their children's learning at home and in the community and support the creation of pathways to partnerships that honor the dynamic, multiple, and complementary ways children learn and grow. Because parent/family support at every age significantly impacts a child's educational outcomes, they apply to all stages of a child's educational career.

Contact Information

For more information on SFS or related programs contact:

Rachelle Engler Bennett, Associate Commissioner
Student and Family Support (SFS)
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street Malden, MA 02148
Phone: 781-338-3010/ Fax: 781-338-3090

Last Updated: October 9, 2020

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

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.