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Systems for Student Success

School & Main Institute, Inc. is partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and 9 Massachusetts districts: Fall River, Framingham, Holyoke, Lowell, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Salem, Somerville and Springfield to build district and school capacity to systematically address students’ barriers to learning. This Systems for Student Success opportunity is designed to help districts identify and prioritize strategies to systematically address the barriers that impede students’ ability to fully engage in the learning process and succeed in and out of school. These barriers might include: 

  • Lack of a safe and supportive school and classroom climate;
  • Punitive, poor or unfair behavior management and disciplinary practices;
  • Ineffective family-school communication and collaboration;
  • Reactive rather than proactive, student support practices;
  • Ineffective, and potentially even detrimental practices around language and cultural competence;
  • Health and mental health challenges faced by students;
  • Adult capacity to support youth affected by trauma and/or poverty; and
  • Housing, transportation, and other challenges related to basic needs, poverty and economic instability. 

Many districts/schools are engaged in efforts to dramatically increase student achievement focus on strong instructional interventions and structures (data teams, common planning time, new assessment strategies, supplemental academic supports, etc.). While these represent critical pieces of the school improvement puzzle, they do not automatically lead to improved academic performance. For the past 5+ years School & Main Institute and the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have been working together to find strategies and solutions that allow districts to address these challenges successfully. The Systems for Student Success grant will leverage MA Turnaround Practices and Wraparound Zone research and enable districts to assess where their most significant barriers to learning exist, identify systems and strategies to address them, and develop an action plan to effectively implement those systems and strategies.

In a Nutshell

Founded in 1985 at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management, School & Main Institute (SMI) has grown into a nationally recognized, independent non-profit training and partnership development organization that has worked with organizations and state agencies in more than 35 states.


School & Main Institute staff and faculty have years of expertise as organizational leaders, program developers, trainers, and facilitators in the fields of education, workforce preparation, youth and community development.

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