The DYS Education Initiative

The Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) is a partner to the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) in creating access statewide to high-quality secondary and post-secondary education, career exploration, and workforce development opportunities for youth in the care and custody of DYS. CES is helping to equip an especially vulnerable population of young people with the tools they need see their world, and themselves, in a new light.


We believe every student can learn and thrive.

Each year, many of our youth overcome individual and systemic barriers to learning and attain their high school diplomas or equivalent (HiSET®), complete meaningful training programs, participate in dual enrollment, postsecondary college or training courses, earn industry recognized credentials, and achieve other milestones on their way to successful adult lives.

Through cutting-edge instruction building on student strengths, we embrace an approach to educational excellence that embodies the following beliefs grounded in positive youth development, cultural responsiveness, and an unwavering commitment to unlocking the promise of the youth we serve: Culture and Purpose; Social Justice and Equity; and College, Career, and Civic Readiness.

A Partnership

In 2003, the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) undertook an unprecedented reform of its education programs. The Comprehensive Education Partnership (CEP) embraces a positive youth development approach, opening doors to education and employment opportunities for young people served by DYS.  

The Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) works together with DYS and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and other DYS non-profit education service providers to give support and direction to innovative teaching and learning in DYS residential programs and effective educational services for DYS clients residing in the community.

Young woman working on a car engine in a mechanics training class.

“We have the opportunity to build a supportive and responsive community for each of our students.

Woody Clift, Director of DYS Education Initiative

Number of children served in DYS and SEIS
3 Guiding Principles
1 to 1 chrome books

DYS Education Initiative Features

DYS Guiding Principles

We understand that inequity and injustice are deeply embedded in our society’s political, social, educational, and economic structures and ideologies. These oppressions, based on socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, education level, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, age, and ability, serve to deny us all human dignity, preventing the harmonious integration and inclusion of diverse groups, blocking the self-determination of those historically targeted by discrimination, and maintaining social and economic disparity. 


The DYS youth in residential programs range in age, grade level, high school attainment acquisition, academic and career readiness, cultural background, and interests. Because of this, DYS embraces a personalized approach to education where educators and other caring adults help youth assess their strengths and aspirations, plan for and make demonstrated progress toward their own goals and work cooperatively with others to accomplish challenging and engaging tasks.

College Program

DYS is invested in guiding youth to see themselves as capable postsecondary students by providing equitable access to college opportunities, preparing them to be college and career ready, and offering a menu of postsecondary and career exploration opportunities. The high-quality DYS College Program has received recognition and support from the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Education, DESE and the Department of Higher Education.


To improve access for DYS youth to postsecondary and credentialing opportunities and required standardized testing (e.g. online MCAS testing), DYS has strategically invested in technology and technology infrastructure in all residential programs. This has included the development of a layered approach to technology access and learning tools that is tailored to the individual needs of youth and addresses the safety and security considerations that our agency must manage.

Special Education

The  Department of Youth Services and DESE’s Special Education in Institutional Settings (SEIS) unit have worked together since July 2008 to increase and improve the delivery of special education services for students with disabilities in the DYS system.

Through specialized training and tools and a team-based approach, educators identify students eligible for special education at the earliest stages of detention and provide effective services for youth in DYS residential facilities.


Educator Professional Development

DYS educators participate in a set of systematic and purposeful learning experiences designed to improve teacher practice and lead to improved student outcomes. Through professional development (PD) and coaching, teachers get to enhance their skills in the planning and implementation of high-quality instruction while sharing and learning from one another on how to meet the diverse needs of the DYS population. Teachers enjoy a state-of-the-art professional development system that integrates cultural responsiveness and social justice and equity throughout its design

DYS Central Office Leadership Team

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