The purpose of an educational support system (ESS) is to ensure that all students, regardless of their eligibility for categorical programs, achieve basic skills, meet Vermont standards, and experience success in the general education environment. It is helpful to think of an ESS as a safety net of programs and supports around regular education components like curriculum, instruction, standards and assessments.

View frequently asked questions about the educational support system:




  Does ESS refer to programs or people?

Both are vital parts of an educational support system.



  How is an educational support team (EST) different from an educational support system (ESS)?

The educational support team (EST) is one component of a school's ESS. The job of an EST is to act as a "think tank" and help solve the puzzle of what is happening in school for a student and determine what he/she might need to be more successful. It is also the job of the EST, with the aid of the classroom teacher, to monitor, review and revise students' EST plans to ensure that the suggested programs, supports, and/or accommodations are effective. The focus is on what school staff can do differently, such as changing strategies, adjusting the environment, and altering expectations. The EST can also provide data to help evaluate and improve programs.

View a list of frequently asked questions about education support teams (ESTs).




  What types of supports might be part of an ESS?

Examples of supports are school breakfast and lunch programs, after school programs, homework support, remedial reading and math, mentoring programs, and student assistance counselors, as well as eligibility for specific programs such as special education, 504 or Title 1 supports.




  Do all schools have the same programs and supports?

Supports are developed in response to the needs of students and their families and vary from community to community. For example, a school with a high migrant population may need an English as a second language program, while a school that is geographically distant from services like mental health agencies or SRS could benefit from having an on-site therapist or home-school coordinator. Many schools have found it beneficial to develop a guide to the continuum of available educational supports, which lists and defines all of the internal and external resources available to support students and their families.




  Are all ESS activities school-based?

No. While many of the components of the ESS will be based in the school building, others may operate at the supervisory union or regional levels and could involve collaboration with other school districts and other state and local agencies, such as SRS or community mental health.




  How do we know what should be part of our school's ESS?

By examining data such as assessment results, discipline referrals, EST referrals, and school climate surveys, a school's Action Planning Team can develop a clearer picture of the unique needs of their school's student population. From this analysis, an Action Plan can then be developed that includes building the programs and supports necessary to meet those needs.




  Are many programs and supports better than fewer?

No. It is more important to match the supports to the actual needs of students. With this in mind, schools can continually monitor ESS programs and supports to evaluate whether they are still appropriate to meet the needs of students.






What are the required elements of an ESS?

State law and regulations require the ESS to:

  • Be supported by a clear school board policy. A sample ESS model policy is available on Vermont School Boards Association Web site at This link will take you off the VT DOE Web site.
  • Be designed to provide students with needed accommodations and supports.
  • Be integrated with the general education curriculum.
  • Provide a clear policy for managing students who are disruptive and offer opportunities for students to learn appropriate behavior.
  • Include a means to determine the effectiveness of accommodations and supports.
  • Include training for school personnel to increase the capacity of the general education system to address students' needs.
  • Include collaboration with families, community supports and health and human services.
  • Be described annually to all parents.
  • Include an effective Educational Support Team (EST).




  Who is responsible for ESS?

Under Act 117 of 2000, superintendents or their designees are responsible for the ESS and are required to complete and submit annual reports to the Commissioner of Education. This report outlines the services and supports that are part of the ESS, how they are funded, and how building the capacity of the ESS has been addressed in the school's action plan. While superintendents have ultimate responsibility, it is important that all school personnel be familiar with the ESS supports of their school.




  How can parents/guardians be involved in the ESS?

It is important for parents and school personnel to collaborate. Parents need to be made aware annually of the programs and supports available through the ESS and how they can help their child. Schools can use several different methods to disseminate information, including brochures, guidebooks, handbooks, as well as PTA and school board presentations to provide information about the ESS.




  How is the effectiveness of an ESS evaluated?

The effectiveness of an ESS is measured by the success of students. School personnel gather student data, track trends, and make adjustments as needed.




  What are teachers responsible for with regard to the ESS?

Teachers are responsible for being aware of ESS programs and supports, knowing when and how to refer students to those appropriate programs and supports, and for working with programs to ensure the success of every student.




  How are ESS programs and supports accessed for students?

There are several ways ESS supports can be accessed. A parent or a teacher can request that a student participate in an activity such as homework club or mentoring without a formal referral. An EST can recommend that a student receives ESS supports, or a student may request supports on his or her own behalf.






What funding could we secure/re-allocate to enhance our ESS?

Funds to support an ESS can be accessed from the following sources available in your particular system:

  • Consolidated Federal Programs - Title 1, Title IIA, and Title V (Innovative Programs)
  • Medicaid
  • School-based Medicaid reimbursements
  • Success Beyond Six
  • Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT)
  • Safe and Drug Free Schools
  • Act 60 Poverty and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) funds
  • BEST and Act 230
  • Special Education (see question number 15 for specifics)

This process may involve periodic re-allocation of funds in response to student assessment and other data collected by the EST relating to referrals and student and staff needs.




  Are ESS activities and programs allowable costs covered by the state special education reimbursement formula?

Since special education is one part of a school's educational support system, special education costs outlined in State Board special education rule (§2366.2.1) are covered. That includes salaries and benefits of licensed special educators for the time that they carry out special education responsibilities. It also includes costs for special educators designated as "core staff" to serve students with IEPs, students with 504 accommodation plans, and students with EST plans. Additionally, it is an allowable cost for special educators to serve students without an IEP in a small group (fewer than eight) so long as the majority of the group has an IEP calling for the service or support. Costs of more generic ESS activities and programs are not allowable costs for special education reimbursement. Examples of costs that are not allowed include home school coordinators, nurses, after school tutorial programs, and summer school programs.




  Can Medicaid IEP reimbursement funds be used for the ESS?

Yes. According to 16 V.S.A., §2959a, School Based Health Services/Medicaid IEP reimbursement funds are to be targeted toward prevention and intervention programs in grades pre-K through 12 which ensure that students achieve state standards for student learning. Additionally, Act 117 identifies the use of Medicaid IEP reimbursement funds to increase the capacity of the ESS to meet the needs of more students outside of special education. It specifically lists preschool through fourth grade literacy, prevention, and intervention for emotional and behavioral difficulties, and other prevention and intervention components.





  How do Act 230/157/117 relate to ESS?

Act 230 was passed by the legislature in 1990 to help contain special education costs by developing a comprehensive continuum of supports for students in the regular education environment and establishing instructional support systems and teams (ISSs and ISTs). Act 157, passed in 1996, re-authorized and broadened the scope beyond academics, requiring schools to develop a comprehensive educational support system with the capacity to provide a range of programs and supports that also include health, social, and behavioral supports. Accordingly, instructional support teams became educational support teams. In 2000, Act 117 added greater accountability for implementation and reporting related to ESS.




  How does the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLBA) relate to the ESS?

The goals of both NCLBA and ESS are that all students experience success, achieve standards and graduate from high school. NCLBA further requires that all students are taught by qualified teachers and paraprofessionals, that student learning is assessed more frequently than under current state law, and that schools will be held accountable for student achievement in attaining these goals.




  How do Section 504 and special education fit into ESS?

Section 504 and special education are part of a range of supports and remedial services available to students as part of the ESS. Because special education and Section 504 are categorical programs with specific eligibility requirements, these services are not available for all students.




  How does school action planning relate to ESS?

School action planning assures that the programs and supports of ESS match the current needs of students.




  What is the relationship between ESS and regular education?

The ESS is designed to increase the ability of the regular education system to meet the need of all students.


  For questions not addressed by this FAQ document, contact the ESS consultants at

View a list of frequently asked questions about education support teams (ESTs).

Page Last Updated on July 27, 2015