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Student and Family Support (SFS)

Office of Student and Family Support (SFS)

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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:

  • Better Together: Strengthening Family School Partnerships — Fall 2022 Summit

    Thank you to all able to attend the first Family Engagement Summit!

    On October 28, 2022, more than 400 participants including family members, educators, administrators, and state organizations participated in the Better Together: Strengthening Family School Partnership Summit in Sturbridge, MA. Organized by the Department and numerous partners, the summit was an opportunity to foster an understanding of family engagement as described above and to model strategies for creating and strengthening meaningful partnerships between schools, families and community organizations.

    Twenty-nine school districts sent family school partnership teams to the event. The day included keynote addresses from Deputy Commissioner Regina Robinson and Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, and a workshop session led by Board Member Mary Ann Stewart. Participants joined a total of 37 workshops focused on a wide range of effective family partnership practices, including tapping family members as literacy advocates, improving school family communication, the new IEP project initiative, strategies for supporting multilingual families, leveraging social media for family partnership, and many more. Pictures and social media posts from the day can be found on #SchoolFamilyMA. Please see the 2022-2023 PD Calendar below for additional opportunities to deepen family engagement and partnership efforts.

  • Family Engagement Networking & Professional Development Series:
    The Department's (DESE) Office of Student and Family Support (SFS) in collaboration with Massachusetts State Family Engagement Center (MASFEC) is excited to offer a series of networking and professional development opportunities focused on Building Authentic and Effective Relationships with all Families. The 2022-2023 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 a capacity building institute that offers a portfolio of workshops to parents, caregivers, school staff and community-based providers to facilitate common knowledge, shared mindsets and collective intentional action by all stakeholders influencing the growth of children and youth, and in support of their life-long success. The mission of the 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 seis-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.

    Application to implement the institute are open to those schools districts who want to participate. Due Date June 1, 2023.

  • Massachusetts Family School Partnership Initiative 2022-2023:
    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 2022-2023 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.

  • Massachusetts Statewide Family Engagement CenterPrenatal through Young Adulthood Family Engagement Framework for Massachusetts (framework) Training of Trainers (ToT)
    This training series is for communities interested in implementing the framework. The framework is designed to strengthen the capacities of educators, healthcare providers, and child development professionals to support effective family engagement efforts. Participants are trained in the 4 training modules and require active participation in 3 sessions that are each 3 hours long.

  • Family Engagement is Essential —
    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: June 23, 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
75 Pleasant Street Malden, MA 02148
Phone: 781-338-3010/ Fax: 781-338-3090

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.