Enrichment and Challenge Support (ECS) Program

Program Details

The Enrichment and Challenge Support Program is a vital component of the Public Schools of Brookline Challenge Framework.
 
The PSB Challenge Framework is a framework for addressing the needs of students who have demonstrated mastery of concepts and skills being taught, or who demonstrate innovative and creative thinking and problem solving abilities beyond their peers.
 
At any given point in a student’s academic journey, s/he may demonstrate advanced understanding of concepts and skills that are being presented. PSB is committed to ensuring that all students have learning experiences that are rigorous and relevant to them throughout the school year.
 
Many students enter a grade with experiences and/or developmental sophistication that allow them to grasp concepts quickly and easily, with little repetition. These students need opportunities to apply what they know and investigate the curriculum in more depth. Some students show a level of advanced understanding that requires a more specialized response from teachers, providing time and opportunity for self-directed investigations and projects. A very small number of students may require very specialized interventions that extend outside the traditional classroom walls.
 
Whatever the reasons, it is the classroom teacher’s responsibility to assess student understanding and plan for instruction that provides the appropriate level of challenge for the student at that point in time.
 
The PSB Challenge Framework is a system of inter-connected supports for addressing the range of needs of students who show advanced understanding of the curriculum and/or innovate and creative problem solving skills beyond their peers. Traditionally, this area has been considered the purview of the ECS Program. In doing so, we missed the opportunity to build capacity in teachers, and may have limited the time students spend on tasks that are appropriately challenging. We now recognize the need to shift to a classroom-centered approach that includes the following:
 
  • Recognition that the learning of all students is everyone’s responsibility. 

  • Educators working collaboratively to assess student needs and plan for instruction that clearly identifies strategies for support and how the 
impact on student learning will be documented. 

  • ECS resource teachers who are skilled at partnering with classroom teachers. 

  • ECS resource teachers who actively seek out new, exciting, innovative resources and strategies that effectively support individualization and deep inquiry, and support student ownership of learning. 

  • ECS resource teachers who have expertise in designing learning that is connected to the curriculum and addresses the needs of individuals 
through a project-based learning approach.
The PSB Challenge Framework is a classroom-centered approach. Educators collaborate to access the array of resources, instructional materials and strategies in order to provide challenging, rigorous, and relevant learning to all students. The framework was informed by other tiered models that aim to address the needs of students by providing levels of support appropriate to demonstrated needs. Response to Intervention (RtI) tiered support models have long been used as a framework for meeting the needs of students who are not demonstrating expected learning or growth.
 
More recently, tiered models have been developed to describe the levels of services and supports that are appropriate for gifted students. An RtI approach is supported by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and the Association for the Gifted of the Council for Exceptional Children. This organization has issued a position statement that reads: “It is the position of the Association for the Gifted of the Council for Exceptional Children that the Response to Intervention model be expanded in its implementation to include the needs of gifted children. The use of the RtI framework for gifted students would support advanced learning needs of children in terms of a faster paced, more complex, greater depth and/or breadth with respect to their curriculum and instruction. It should also be noted that students who are gifted with disabilities may need more than one level on intervention and advancement in terms of curriculum and instructional strategies.” 1
 
Several states (Wisconsin, Colorado, Indiana, Montana, Alabama) have structured their services for gifted students using a tiered model. Massachusetts has developed its own tiered system that is intended to address the needs of all students, including students who have demonstrated mastery of concepts and skills being taught. (Massachusetts Tiered System of Support (MTSS - http://www.doe.mass.edu/mtss/)
 
Collaboration is at the heart of an RtI model. “It is through collaboration that all stakeholders involved in working with students can bring their expertise to the table for discussion in order to help students be successful in all areas. Thus, RtI is a collaborative approach to serving students.
 
It redefines the meaning of teacher collaboration and accommodation for students at all levels (Gardiner, 2006). Collaboration among experts and professionals in a school and district “communicates to students and parents that expert knowledge and skills are valued, accessed, and shared among general and special educators. Moreover, it communicates to stakeholders that the education of every student is a shared responsibility” (Patterson et al., 2008, p. 17). 2
 
The PSB Challenge Framework is described in further detail below, as we envision established and in place, serving the needs of teachers and students.
 
The PSB Challenge Framework collaborators include:
  • Classroom Teachers who work with students with a wide range of needs, interests, and abilities within a general education setting. K-5 classroom teachers provide instruction in ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies, Health, and Social Emotional Learning. 6th through 8th grade classroom teachers provide instruction in specialized areas of instruction. Classroom teachers have deep understanding of the Brookline Learning Expectations and strategic plan goals. They have a variety of resources: specialists who help support and structure differentiated lessons, materials to help craft lessons which are responsive to the needs of all the learners in their classrooms, curriculum and program coordinators and professional development to support their continued learning and understanding of teaching and learning. 

  • Enrichment and Challenge Support (ECS) Program resource teachers who serve as resource specialists whose expertise is in working with classroom teachers to design instruction and assessment for students who are moving through the curriculum with good understanding at a fast pace, and for students who show unique, innovative, and creative solutions to problems they are presented with. They work in a coaching model, alongside classroom teachers, and facilitate collaboration with other specialists. They have overview knowledge of the Brookline Learning Expectations and the challenge and extension opportunities embedded in the curriculum. They have knowledge and experience in facilitating and leading project-based learning. They have content expertise in the characteristics and needs (academic and social/emotional) of advanced learners. They are technology users and can support teachers in utilizing technology as a tool for learning and providing creative options for challenge. They seek out new resources of all kinds that help to individualize learning, excite and motivate students. ECS resource teachers may have additional training in the Instructional Coaching model, which prepares them to work closely with classroom teachers on improving their practice by working through a student-centered inquiry model that requires close collaboration over a period of time. 

  • Math and Literacy specialists who serve as resource specialists whose expertise in their subject area content enable them to work with classroom teachers as they plan instruction and assessment for all students. They are working in a coaching model, alongside classroom teachers, and they collaborate with other specialists. They have in-depth knowledge of their content areas, the Brookline Learning Expectations and the opportunities for challenge and extension embedded in the curriculum. They are technology users and can support teachers in utilizing technology as a tool for learning and providing creative options for challenge.
  • Educational Technology specialists who serve as resource specialists whose expertise in technology enables them to work with classroom teachers as they plan instruction and assessment for all students. They are working in a coaching model, alongside classroom teachers, and they collaborate with other specialists. They have an in-depth knowledge of their content areas, the Brookline Learning Expectations and the opportunities for challenge and extension embedded in the curriculum. They are aware of new technology resources and applications, and work with teachers to utilize technology effectively as a tool for learning and providing creative options for challenge.
  • Librarians who serve as resource specialists whose expertise in library and information resources enable them to work with classroom teachers as they plan instruction and assessment for all students. They are working in a coaching model, alongside classroom teachers, and they collaborate with other specialists. They have an in-depth knowledge of their content area, media literacy, the Brookline Learning Expectations and the opportunities for challenge and extension embedded in the curriculum. They support teachers in utilizing library and information resources as tools for learning and providing creative options for challenge. 

  • Guidance Counselors and School Psychologists are specialists whose expertise in providing social and emotional support enable them to work with classroom teachers as they plan instruction and assessment for all students. They are working in a coaching model, alongside classroom teachers, and they collaborate with other specialists. They support teachers in creating learning environments which offer support and opportunities for challenge and enrichment and which nurture the needs of gifted and talented students. 

  • Special Educators and ELL teachers work together with ECS Resource Teachers and the ECS Coordinator to carefully consider the needs of students who are considered “twice exceptional” – that is, they show evidence of high level thinking, creative and problem solving abilities, and also have learning disabilities or are limited by their proficiency in English. These specialists collaborate with classroom teachers to ensure that students have access to rigorous and challenging curriculum and opportunities to extend their learning alongside their peers. 

  • Curriculum coordinators work together with ECS Resource Teachers and the ECS Coordinator to develop curriculum-based extensions that are meaningful and challenging for students who have advanced content level understanding, and for those students who show exceptional creative and innovative thinking skills. Curriculum coordinators as a group will include ECS Resource Teachers in the development of interdisciplinary projects.
In the PSB Challenge Frameworkproject-based learning is explicitly named as a challenge/enrichment activity. In project-based learning, “projects are complex tasks based on challenging questions or problems, that involve students in design, problem-solving, decision making, or investigative activities; give student the opportunity to work relatively autonomously over extended periods of time; and culminate in realistic products or presentations. (Jones, Rasmussen, & Moffitt, 1997) 3 Project-based learning is considered an effective approach for “gifted” students because they focus on authentic problems which are motivating and challenging, require interdisciplinary thinking, creative thinking and problem solving skills, and promote collaboration and communication.
 

Fostering Partnerships – An additional ECS component of the PSB Challenge Framework

Because of its location, Brookline is well situated to partner with the community. The ECS Program has long been aware of this potential, but has lacked the manpower and structure to explore this in a systematic way. Parents and families have been our traditional partners, but this can be re- defined and made more inclusive. In addition, the program should develop partnerships with after-school programs and local colleges, universities and businesses. In the spirit of 21st century thinking, partnerships that extend beyond our local community should be developed as well. Fostering Partnerships should be a primary component of the ECS Coordinator’s work.
 
Family Partnership:
 Currently, the ECS Program partners formally with parents through the ECS Parent Advisory Committee, and informally as a resource and support for parents. The committee recommends strengthening this partnership through communication and outreach to access the interest and expertise in the parent community. Beyond providing information about area resources and events of interest to students and families, this might include speaker events for parents and/or family events. The Parent Advisory Committee’s role should be formally defined as a body that supports specific parent communication and outreach activities.
 
Out-of-School Time Partnerships:
 Many families currently extend their child’s learning experiences to include activities and programs that take place outside of the school day. For many, it is an opportunity to provide extra enrichment to the student in an area that he/she has a passion or interest, or a need. For some, it is an opportunity for students to experiment with a new topic or activity. For others, it is an opportunity for learning in a competitive environment.
 
Many of the out-of-school time opportunities are privately sponsored and are paid for by parents. They take place at various times and locations outside of the schools. They are not easily accessible to students who need transportation or who have limited ability to pay. Although all schools offer some array of after-school enrichment classes, the offerings are limited.
 
The ECS Program will investigate and sponsor a selection of out-of-school time programs or classes that provide students a local, low-cost after-school challenge opportunity, particularly for students in Grades 6-8, as school-based after-school options are limited. Programs could be independently run or in collaboration with existing after-school enrichment program providers. A number of programs are available that emphasize critical and creative thinking and collaborative problem solving, such as Future Problem Solvers and Odyssey of the Mind. By providing challenging and engaging classes locally, students will have the opportunity to explore their interests and apply learning in authentic tasks.
 
Local and Global Partnerships: Currently, the ECS resource teachers may independently establish a short-term partnership with a community member or area program in support of a student or group of students. This has not happened at the district level. The ECS coordinator will pro-actively make contact with colleges and universities, business and/or programs (local and beyond), to investigate opportunities for partnering with the district (both school day and after school) to develop or bring programs to the district that would foster collaborative learning.

  1. Association for the Gifted, Council for Exceptional Children, 2009. http://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/Position%20Statement/RtI.pdf 

  2. Serving Gifted Students Within An RtI Framework, 2012. 

  3. Project-Based Learning for Gifted Students, 2012. 


ECS Program Coordinator:

Matthew Rosenthal 
(617) 264-6407 
 

ECS Program Website

 
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