A message from the
Massachusetts Department of
Elementary and Secondary Education

March, 2021
  1. Launch of Youth Risk Behavior Data Collection -  Community of Practice
  2. Postponement of 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey and Youth Health Survey
  3. COVID R.E.L.I.E.F. - Communities of Practice Alliance
  4. Health and Physical Educators - Communities of Practice
  5. SEL and Wellness Educators - Community of Practice Series
  6. Elementary Principals March Book Group
  7. Relationship Mapping Practice Profiles
  8. Webinar: Establishing a Group Therapy Program
  9. Dropout Prevention & Re-Engagement (DPR) Work Group
  10. For Your Information
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department/ DESE) is continuing to develop and share this newsletter during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout the 2020-2021 school year. As schools, districts, teachers, students, and families navigate an especially challenging school year, we hope that these resources are helpful and welcome any feedback. 

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please email the Office of Student and Family Support at
Topic 1 Heading Heart logo logo  Launch of Youth Risk Behavior Data Collection -  Community of Practice

The YRBS Data Collection Community of Practice (CoP) aims to build connections and relationships among DESE, schools, districts, counties, and regions involved in youth risk behavior data collection efforts. The goal of the CoP is to increase the effectiveness of both state-wide and local youth risk behavior surveys. We are hosting two 45-minute information sessions about the CoP: Tuesday, March 2nd at 1 PM and Thursday, March 4th at 10 AM.  If you are interested in participating in an information session, please register here. Please contact with any questions.

Topic 1 Heading Heart logo logo  Postponement of 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey and Youth Health Survey

Given the impact that COVID-19 has had on school schedules and the desire to reduce burden as schools are figuring out how to resume more in-person learning this spring, DESE and DPH have postponed the administration of the 2021 YRBS and YHS surveys from Spring 2021 to Fall 2021. Middle schools and high schools selected to participate will be notified this spring and we look forward to working with these schools in Fall 2021 to administer these important surveys. Please contact with any questions. 

Topic 3 Heading Heart logo  COVID R.E.L.I.E.F. - Communities of Practice Alliance

The COVID R.E.L.I.E.F. (Recognizing Emotional Learning, Innovations, and Engaging Families) Communities of Practice Alliance will seek to serve as a model for how to harness the power of building equitable relationships with all members of the school community to generate shared wellness goals and action plans aligned with the Whole School Whole Community Whole Child (WSCC model). Participants will also have access to an online portal to keep conversations going and build sustainable partnerships. Interested parties can register onlineFamilies are welcomed and encouraged to participate.

Topic 4 Heading Heart logo  Health and Physical Educators - Communities of Practice

Beginning in March, in partnership with the DESE, Lighthouse Health and Wellness Education will launch two communities of practice for health and physical educators to engage in facilitated discussions that support integrating covered concepts into health and physical education classrooms. The Engaging Students by Infusing Technology in Health & Physical Education COP will run from March 10th through April 28th, and the Trauma-Informed and Equity-Focused Approaches in Health & Physical Education COP will run from March 17th through May 5th.  Each COP will be limited to 40 participants who commit to being present at all four sessions and engaging as a member of the community. More information and registration for each COP can be found at the respective links above.

Topic 5 Heading Logo  SEL and Wellness Educators - Community of Practice Series

In collaboration with DESE, Walker Therapeutic & Educational Programs (Walker) is pleased to announce a series of webinars for school administrators, leaders, and educators. Drawing on the MTSS framework and CASEL's signature practices, and attending to equity, belonging, and diversity, these highly interactive sessions will explore the "why's and how's” of developing a systemic approach to support adult SEL and wellbeing now and beyond COVID. While attendance at all sessions is optimal, participants are welcome to join individual sessions that match their availability and interest. Also, this is a great opportunity for small teams from the same school or district to attend to build on their SEL plans. Attendance will be limited to the first 100 registrants to allow for small group discussions in breakout rooms. Please use this link to register.

  • Session 1: Catching Our Breath: Supporting and Modeling Our Own SEL and Wellbeing: Wednesday, March 17 from 1:00-2:30 PM
  • Session 2: Strength in Numbers: Teams and Collaborative Practices to Support Adult SEL and WellbeingWednesday, April 14 from 1:00-2:30 PM
  • Session 3: Strength in Systems: Schoolwide Organizational Supports and Structures to Support Adult SEL and Wellbeing: Wednesday, May 12 from 1:00-2:30 PM
  • Session 4: Now What?: Wrapping Up the Year and Envisioning the Work AheadWednesday, June 2 from 1:00-2:30 PM
Topic 5 Heading Logo  Elementary Principals March Book Group

In collaboration with the Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association (MSAA), DESE’s Early Learning Team is hosting a year-long professional development series on topics related to early learning, preschool to third grade. In March, DESE and MSAA will host a book group discussion about Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond. The discussions will take place at 3:00-4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 10 and Wednesday, March 17Registration is open online.

Topic 5 Heading Logo  Relationship Mapping Practice Profiles
During the pandemic, schools and districts are finding new ways to build and maintain relationships between teachers, staff, and students. Adult to Student Relationship Mapping is the systematic identification of student-adult trusted relationships in the school community. This approach allows educators to identify students who may be at risk of not having such a trusted connection and match them with appropriate supports for navigating academic and personal challenges throughout the school year. A Practice Profile is available and was shared in a recent Building Blocks workshop. For more recommendations and sample resources on supporting the social emotional well-being of students, as well as teachers and staff during the 2020-2021 school year, please review the DESE guidance documents on the COVID-19 Mental and Behavioral Health Resources page.
Topic 5 Heading Logo  Webinar: Establishing a Group Therapy Program
REMINDER: The MA School Mental Health Consortium (MASMHC) and DESE are jointly sponsoring PD trainings on topics that support comprehensive school mental health efforts. You can still register online for the next session - Tuesday, March 2, 2:00-3:30pmTier II Therapeutic Supports: Establishing a Group Therapy Program, led by John Crocker, MASMHC founder and Methuen Public Schools Director of School Mental Health & Behavioral Services. 
Topic 5 Heading Logo  Dropout Prevention & Re-Engagement (DPR) Work Group
The purpose of the monthly DPR is to provide a venue for schools/districts to share information regarding best practices, challenges, struggles and successes working with at-risk student populations. Anyone is welcome to participate. The DPR is held on the third Thursday of the month and the next one will be on Thursday March 18, 9am-10am and will be focused on Data and Chronic Absenteeism. No advanced registration is required and the link to join is here. For more information contact
Topic 6 Heading logo For Your Information
Supporting Race Equity for Youth:
The MA Department of Public Health (DPH), Bureau of Substance Abuse Services’ Youth and Young Adult Services team put together a resource for Youth Serving providers. Supporting Race Equity for Youth is a collection of books, videos and educational programs related to racial equity and social justice including how to have difficult discussions with youth/teens.

SOS Signs of Suicide Program - Offered through DPH at no cost to schools
SOS Signs of Suicide is an evidence-based youth prevention program designed specifically for middle and high schools to train students in-person or virtually. SOS Signs of Suicide teaches students how to identify signs of depression and suicide in themselves and their peers, while training school professionals, parents, and community members to recognize at-risk students and take appropriate action. Suicide is an increasing concern for Massachusetts youth. Nearly 18% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, according to the 2019 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was a significant increase from just over 12% in 2017. Please see this flier for more details and contact information.

Safe and Equitable Schools: Tier II Interventions and Considerations Webinars - and other upcoming Webinars
The National Center for School Mental Health, in Collaboration with the Central East Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) and the Danya Institute is pleased to offer the School Mental Health Virtual Learning Series during the 2020-2021 school year. 

See the flyer for January-June 2021 for full details, and you can view recordings of previous webinars. Upcoming sessions are Wednesdays, 3:00-4:00PM and include: 

National Convening: This is the Time to Lead with Mental Health and Equity in Mind
BRYT (Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition) and the Ruderman Family Foundation are sponsoring a convening on March 16 from 1:00-2:00. Join educators, school leaders, policymakers, and funders from across the country for this special hour-long convening exploring how to move forward with mental health and equity at the fore.

Featuring Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., world-renowned teacher, clinician, and researcher on brain development and children’s trauma. Author of the forthcoming book What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey (2021). For more information and to register, please visit the BRYT events page

MassSupport Network – outreach and services available
Please see the attached MassSupport Network school flyer for information about community outreach and support services available statewide.
 Information about related events such as town halls and support groups that may be of interest can also be found on Facebooktwitter, and Instagram. In addition, the program has a YouTube channel that includes presentations and other helpful materials.

Learn more about Deeper Learning.
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