Family engagement is a key lever for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to contribute to positive outcomes for students. It is embedded in the Department’s strategic priority to support social-emotional learning, health and safety and in the Consolidated State Plan that was filed under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

As noted in the Commissioner’s Report to the Board, Our Way Forward For Massachusetts K-12 Public Education, “Families are schools’ first essential partner. Principals and teachers must engage our families as true partners, both by listening and responding to their dreams for their children and equipping them to support their children’s growth and development at home.”

DESE Family Engagement Definition
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, gender identity, religion, or ethnicity.
  • Effective engagement strives to eliminate barriers to participation.
  • These engagement practices take place in schools, in the community, and wherever students live and learn.

Initiatives of the Office of Student and Family Support

  • Family Institute for Student Success (FISS)
    During the 2019 school year, DESE contracted with the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) to pilot the Family Institute for Student Success (FISS) in collaboration with New Bedford and Lawrence Public Schools. With support from MASFEC, FISS was able to expand in 2020 to include Fall River, Brockton, and Lowell Public Schools.The FISS Initiative supports the development of culturally responsive practices and partnerships between families and educators to further students’ academic achievement. The nine-week institute is designed to provide families with the knowledge and skills to partner effectively with schools in order to support student achievement. Additionally, training is provided to school administrators, educators, and community partners on how to engage families more effectively as partners.
  • Family Portal
    DESE has created a Family Portal that enables families to access information related to their child’s education, Preschool to Grade 12. The Family Portal provides a number of links to information and resources on topics that may be of interest to families, and to those supporting family engagement in education. Information is organized into three categories: Learning and Testing resources, Special Education resources, and Laws and Guidance.