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Student and Family Support (SFS)

Office of Student and Family Support (SFS)

Family Engagement logo

Family Engagement
Initiatives and Resources

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (DESE) definition of Family Engagement:

The primary goal of family engagement is to facilitate shared responsibility that contributes to the healthy development, learning, and growth of children - from the earliest ages into young adulthood. Family engagement builds relationships between students, families, educators, and the community. These relationships over time develop into meaningful partnerships rooted in the strengths and assets of all.

  • Effective family engagement is culturally responsive, collaborative, equitable, and respectful of diverse languages, norms, and values.
  • Effective engagement strives to eliminate barriers to participation.
  • These engagement practices take place in schools, in the community, and wherever students live and learn.

Family Engagement Tools and Resources:

Initiative Examples:

  • FY2024: Strengthening Family-School Partnership Grant, Fund Code 339
    As DESE considers how to best support districts, schools, and community organizations to engage with families, it is important that we create opportunities to build capacity of administrators, educators to more effectively engage with families in ways that are culturally responsive and anti-racist.

    The purpose of this federally-funded competitive grant program is to provide funding to school districts (and their selected schools) to organize, integrate, and sustain school and district-wide efforts to create implement and develop a culturally responsive family engagement initiatives aligned with the four elements in the Strengthening Partnerships: A Framework for Prenatal through Young Adulthood Family Engagement in Massachusetts (Referred to as the MA Family Engagement Framework; Strengthening Partnerships, 2020) and The Massachusetts Family, School, and Community Partnership Fundamentals (2.0) document .

    The main priorities for this Strengthening Family-School Partnership grant are for school and districts leaders to make a clear and transparent commitment to equitable family engagement. School and district leaders can encourage school staff and families to build and strengthen authentic and thrusted relationships.

    More information and details may be found on the Funding Opportunity Request for Proposals that was due September 28, 2023.

  • Better Together: Strengthening Family School Partnerships Fall 2023 Summit
    The Department will hold its second Annual Better Together Family Engagement Summit. The summit is a unique and powerful opportunity for family members and educators to talk about the lives of students, the success of schools, and ways we can be better together. Participants can choose from more than 50 workshops, visit resource tables, and participate in other activities designed to help families and educators create the strong partnership relationship students need to thrive. The summit will offer sessions presented by district, state, and national family engagement organizations and DESE staff. In the spirit of partnership, districts are asked to register a team.
    • Date: Thursday, October 26
    • Place: Best Western Royal Plaza in Marlborough.
    • Time: From 9:00am – 4:00pm
    • Online Registration: Better Together Family Engagement Summit
    • The Department looks forward to seeing everyone at this year's summit!

  • Family Engagement Networking & Professional Development Series:
    The Department's (DESE) The Office of Student and Family Support (SFS) is excited to offer a series of networking and professional development opportunities focused on Building Authentic and Effective Relationships with all Families. The 2023-2024 series will be virtual (unless otherwise noted) and will include webinars, networking sessions, and book discussions, groups.
  • Massachusetts Family Institute for Student Success (FISS):
    Supported through a federally funded Statewide Family Engagement Center (SFEC) grant, and the federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. Family Institute for Student Success (FISS) is to expand and enhance the capacities of families and school staff to build strong, positive, and effective partnerships, to promote family well-being and the healthy development and academic success of children and youth. The institute covers topics including culturally relevant family recruitment strategies, the selection and training of recruiters, the selection and training of facilitators, how to develop effective communication with families, and how to measure program outcomes. FISS also directly engages families, at the school level, in a six-week institute, taught in their primary language, that provides them with the knowledge, skills, and ability to actively engage in their children's education and strengthen the family-school collaboration.

    FISS is currently being implemented in the following school districts: Amherst Middle School in partnership with the Collaborative for Educational Services, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, and New Bedford.

    The application to implement the institute are open to those schools and districts who want to participate. Details will be posted once confirmed.

  • Massachusetts Family School Partnership Initiative 2023-2024:
    The Department's Systems for Student Success (SFSS) and Student and Family Support (SFS) Offices, in collaboration with School & Main Institute and Pat Spradley, former chief of parent and community engagement for the Springfield Public Schools, are offering the 2023-2024 Massachusetts Family School Partnership Initiative.

    This initiative is designed to strengthen family engagement practices by providing school and district teams with training and coaching to implement the Massachusetts Family, School, and Community Partnership Fundamentals — Version 2.0 . Districts that have participated in previous cohorts: Abby Kelly Foster Charter School, Chelsea Public Schools, Community Charter School of Cambridge, Douglas Public Schools, Everett Public Schools, Haverhill Public Schools, Medford Public Schools, Milford Public Schools, Randolph High School, Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School, Swampscott Public Schools, and Woburn Public Schools.

  • Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council (PCEIAC)
    The Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council (PCEIAC) focuses on matters pertaining to the development of parent and community engagement in education. Its function is to help inform and advise the Department on policy issues that relate to the enhancement of the educational achievement of Massachusetts students.

  • Dates for the Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council (PCEIA) Meetings:
    • Thursday, October 12, 2023 from 10:00am–12:00pm
    • Thursday, January 25, 2024 from 10:00–12:00 pm
    • Thursday, May 23, 2204 from 10:00–12:00pm

  • Family and community engagement is an integral part of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Schools and local education agencies (school districts, also known as LEAs) must actively engage families and community members in the development of state and local education plans for the use of funds including Federal Grants such as Title I, Part A that provides financial assistance to districts and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families. Schools must partner with stakeholders including families in the development of school improvement plans for schools identified for support and improvement under ESSA.

For more information contact Olga Lopez , Family Engagement Specialist.

Last Updated: November 29, 2023

Contact Information

For more information on SFS or related programs contact:

Rachelle Engler Bennett, Associate Commissioner

Kristen McKinnon, Assistant Director

Student and Family Support (SFS)
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway Everett, MA 02149
Email: achievement@mass.gov
Phone: 781-338-3010/ Fax: 781-338-3090

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

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

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