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The SEL & Mental Health Academy is a project funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to help schools and districts across the Commonwealth develop multi-tiered systems of SEL and mental health supports—classroom instruction, small-group support, and individualized care—that are effective, culturally sensitive, and sustainable. 

Over a three-year period, teams from selected districts participate in annual institutes combined with ongoing professional development, coaching, and customized technical assistance. These supports are designed to help schools integrate social and emtional learning (SEL) and mental health with their current MTSS frameworks, and align new programming with existing priorities, systems, and practices.

The Academy addresses these areas of content:

Three Phases

  • Year1: Mobilization and Design. During this period, we work with schools to build an SEL/mental health (MH) MTSS team, identify available resources to support SEL/MH efforts, assess students’ SEL and mental health needs, and design an implementation action plan.
  • Year 2: Implementation and Continuous Improvement. During this period, we work with schools to support the effective implementation of their models, including helping teams attain buy-in from key stakeholders, provide professional development for educators, and use continuous quality improvement (CQI) approaches to monitor and fine tune their models.
  • Year 3: Sustainability and Scale Up. During this period, we work with schools to put in place the supports needed to sustain their models, such as school policies, ongoing training and support, and ongoing access to resources. We also help teams expand their models, if appropriate, to additional grades and/or other schools in the district. 

“[Taking part in the Academy] gave us time to focus, develop our SEL goals, and plan as a team without outside influences or conflicts arising. It provided a supportive environment for growth in this area.”  


By the end of this period, schools will have a comprehensive structure in place to address student mental health and SEL needs at all three tiers, along with a plan to evaluate the effectiveness of programs and strategies. In addition, they will develop professional development plans to incorporate key competencies for staff in these areas.

The academy is a key component of DESE’s larger MTSS initiative, providing Massachusetts students with access to the supports they need to be successful.