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Office of Student and Family Support

The Office of Student and Family Support (SFS) works in partnership with K-12 educators, schools, students, families, and other partners across the Commonwealth to advance the Department's mission. Our programs and initiatives promote a comprehensive and collaborative approach to help students gain the knowledge, skills and values needed to be well prepared for post-secondary options as well as a career and citizenship. SFS staff collaborate with partners to increase access to school, high quality learning opportunities and provision of essential services. Our common goal is to ensure that students acquire the necessary academic, social-emotional and physical competencies, and that barriers to learning are reduced and student potential is maximized.

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:

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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:
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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.
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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:

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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.
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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).

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Service-Learning (SL)
A teaching methodology that integrates community service with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Through SL, students identify, research, propose and implement solutions to real needs in their school or community as part of their curriculum. Service-learning is supported and encouraged as a teaching and learning strategy in a variety of Department grant programs and initiatives.

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.

Massachusetts Model for Comprehensive School Counseling
The model guides school administrators and counselors in the development of measurably effective school counseling programs and helps counselor education programs to align their curriculum with basic tenets of the Model.

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  Download MS WORD Document, and Social and Emotional Learning Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD 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).

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 5, 2016
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