Student and Family Support (SFS)

Office of Student and Family Support (SFS)

Family Engagement
Initiatives and Resources

hands around people

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:

Current Initiatives:

  • Family Institute for Student Success (FISS): During the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years, through a contract with the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), DESE piloted the first Family Institute for Student Success (FISS) in Lawrence and New Bedford Public Schools. Brockton, Fall River, and Lowell Public Schools are also implementing FISS during the 2020-2021 school year.

    Supported through a federally funded Statewide Family Engagement Center (SFEC) grant, and the federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant, the Massachusetts Family Institute for Student Success engages families in a nine-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.

    Family survey data indicates that after graduating from the program, families' knowledge of district curriculum, graduation requirements, grade point average, MCAS, and as well as how they can support their child's leaning grew from 80 percent reporting "not at all," "very little," or "somewhat" to 80 percent reporting "pretty well" or "very well."

  • The Systems for Student Success (SfSS) Office has contracted with the School & Main Institute to oversee an initiative to support three districts in the implementation of the newly revised Fundamentals tool.

  • Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council — Advisory council to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Additional Family Engagement Resources:

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 provide 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 any schools identified for support and improvement under ESSA.

For more information contact Olga Lopez, Family Engagement Specialist.

Last Updated: August 17, 2021

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


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