Enrichment and Challenge Support (ECS) Program

Enrichment and Challenge Support (ECS) Program

On a recent Friday morning, two dozen parents gathered to hear from Matt Rosenthal, Brookline’s new full-time Enrichment and Challenge Support (ECS) Program Coordinator.  The Public Schools of Brookline has long had an ECS program, but, following a Program Review in 2013-14 and the passage of last spring’s override, the program is undergoing changes and expansion. An important of part of this effort is new leadership that has been increased from .6 FTE to full-time.

The ECS Program is part of the Public Schools of Brookline’s Challenge Framework – “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.”  Under the previous ECS model, this was often seen as the responsibility of the ECS resource teachers.   Matt emphasized the new focus on a classroom-centered approach with shared responsibility among the classroom teacher, curriculum specialist, and ECS resource teacher.  Collaboration plays a key role in this process.   ECS resource teachers  “actively seek out new, exciting, innovative resources and strategies that effectively support individualization and deep inquiry, and support student ownership of learning.
(They) have expertise in designing learning that is connected to the curriculum and addresses the needs of individuals
through a project-based learning approach.”

As part of the presentation, third grade teacher Mary Lee Mastroianni and ECS Resource Teacher Leslie Fagen shared an example of how they have collaborated to provide differentiation during math workshop.  They also have begun to explore the idea of having students design projects built around burning questions.  This project-based work comes from a national movement referred to as “Genius Hour”.   While I don’t love the name, the project-based approach makes sense. The key elements are student choice and setting expectations so that every student is challenged.  For other examples of collaboration around Brookline go to the ECS website and click on “Classroom Highlights.”

Matt also described how he has begun to work with each of Brookline’s curriculum coordinators to identify and develop resources for various units that provide “rigor, relevance and engagement” for all students.

Finally, Matt offered suggestions for how parents can be involved:

  • (Most important) Stay connected with your child’s classroom teacher.
  • Check out the subject area resources on the ECS new website: http://ecsbrookline.weebly.com/
  • Follow ECS on Twitter (@ecsbrookline)
  • Reach out to Lawrence ECS Resource Teacher Leslie Fagen or Parent Advisory Council representatives Ivey Bueno and Grace Fehrenbach.

A Note About Lawrence

Last June, we conducted a parent focus group on the topic of challenge.  This fall, our School Council reviewed the feedback from this focus group. In the coming months, the council will continue the conversation and make recommendations for how we can enhance our work to ensure that every student is, in the words of the PSB strategic plan goals, “invested in learning” and “prepared for change and challenge.”   A key component of this effort is our ongoing work to cultivate habits of mind and to promote a culture of thinking.   As psychologist Lev Vygotsky reminded us, “Children grow into the intellectual life of those around them.”

Rick Rogers
rick_rogers@brookline.k12.ma.us

 

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