The educational support team (EST) is one component of a school's educational support system (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 frequently asked questions about educational support teams:






  What is the difference between an educational support team (EST) and an educational support system (ESS)?

The ESS consists of a range of supports and services, instructional strategies and accommodations needed to increase the ability of a school to meet the needs of all students in the general education environment. The goal of the ESS is for all students to achieve the basic skill areas, meet Vermont standards, and experience success in the general education environment. The EST is one of many components of an educational support system.

View a list of frequently asked questions about the education support system (ESS).

  Getting Our "Acts" Together
All of the following pieces of legislation (#2 through #6) impact the work of the ESS and EST and are intended to create a comprehensive system that supports all students.


  What is Act 230?

Act 230, passed in 1990 by the Vermont Legislature, was the initial piece of legislation that required all schools to establish instructional support systems (ISS) to ensure the early identification of students at risk and the capability of meeting their needs. It included an instructional support team (IST) for collaborative problem solving to assist teachers, and it provided grants for professional development activities to meet students' academic needs, to the extent possible, in the regular classroom.




  What is Act 157?

In 1996 Act 230 was reauthorized as Act 157 and required that schools develop a comprehensive ESS with the capacity to provide a range of social, academic and behavioral supports. Act 157 extended the focus beyond academics to include those factors that may have a detrimental impact on a student's school performance (i.e., nutrition, mental health, challenging life circumstances). Instructional support teams (ISTs) became ESTs to reflect the broader focus.




  What is Act 60?

Act 60, passed in 1997, fundamentally changed state funding for education and afforded educational equity for all Vermont children. Act 60 includes provisions that ensure overall educational quality in Vermont schools, including the adoption of statewide and local academic standards; state and local assessments; early literacy programs; school action plans; reporting educational results to communities; professional development; staff evaluation; access to technical education; school quality standards; and technical assistance to low-performance schools.




  What is Act 117?

Act 117, passed in 2000, was intended to strengthen the capacity of Vermont's education system to meet the needs of all Vermont students in the general education environment. It added increased reporting and monitoring responsibilities to examine issues of cost effectiveness, consistency and capacity statewide. Act 117 emphasized the requirements of ESS and EST as outlined in Act 157 and increased a school's accountability for its ESS.




  What is 504?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects people with disabilities from discrimination in any program or activity receiving federal funding. Students with disabilities that substantially limit a major life activity such as learning, working, hearing, speaking, etc. may require an individual accommodation plan or specific services to ensure access to education and school sponsored activities.





  What is the job of an educational support team (EST)?

Its job is to act as a "think tank" and help solve the puzzle of what is going on for a student and determine what he/she might need to be more successful. It is also the job of an EST to review, revise and monitor the effectiveness of interventions. The focus is on what school staff can do differently by changing strategies, adjusting the environment, altering expectations, etc.

Based on the team's experience with individual student referrals, a school's EST is also able to identify trends and patterns of student needs in the school. The team can use the information to inform the school's Action Plan with data and recommendations for systemic interventions.




  What are examples of trends or patterns that the EST might observe?

For example, a high percentage of EST referrals are made for written language difficulties. These could be the result of a curriculum or instructional weakness, rather than student disability. Review of data would identify the existence of a trend.

Another example might be that a large number of students are referred for behavior problems. That would suggest a more in depth look to determine whether a systemic, rather than student by student, response would be more effective.

Once a pattern is observed, the critical next step is to gather data to support or refute the pattern or team's hypothesis before developing action-planning steps.





  Are instructional support teams (ISTs) and ESTs the same thing?

No. ISTs, created under Act 230, were focused primarily on academics. Act 157 broadened the focus to now include a range of social, academic and behavioral supports.




  Who should be on an EST?

The EST's membership should be broad enough to be supportive of its "think tank" role, but small enough to be manageable. Membership could include classroom and special education teachers, specialists, administrators, nurses, paraprofessionals, and guidance counselors.




  What knowledge and training should EST members have?

EST members should be good problem solvers who have a strong working knowledge of a variety of instructional strategies, curricular modifications, and resources available in and outside the school.




  Who can make a referral to an EST?

Any school employee, parent, or student may make a referral to an EST.




  How do ESTs handle referrals?

Someone (a coordinator or facilitator) screens referrals and determines if a referral is ready to be considered by the EST. Referrals to the EST are usually made after teachers have tried a variety of strategies.




  Who leads the EST and facilitates meetings?

Schools have chosen a variety of staff members to coordinate the functioning of their ESTs and/or facilitate meetings. As on other teams or committees, those who have the strongest organizational capacity or facilitation skills are best able to do the job.




  How often should an EST meet? For how long?

While there is no required frequency or amount of time, there should be regularly scheduled meetings.




  How do ESTs make decisions?

Most ESTs use consensus since it has the advantage of ensuring that all participants agree and are willing to actively support decisions. It is important to have a back-up plan when consensus can not be reached.




  What records does an EST need to keep?

The EST should maintain a written record of its actions, including records of referrals and written EST plans that specify what will be done, how effectiveness will be determined and a timeline for review. The EST also uses its records to look for trends and patterns which may lead to the development of systemic interventions.




  What are school boards required to do to support the ESS and EST?

Vermont State Board of Education regulations require school boards to have a policy outlining how the district will develop and implement, in consultation with parents, a comprehensive system of education services that will result in all students succeeding in the general education environment. They must also assign responsibility for developing and maintaining the ESS to the superintendent or principal. 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.





  What is the plan called?

Most schools use one of three names for the plan outlining the activities and interventions developed to increase the likelihood that a student will be successful. The first two refer to the names of the Acts that created them, Act 230 Plans or Act 157 Plans, and the third is more reflective of the source of the plan, EST Plan.




  Are there any required forms for the EST Plan?

There are no required forms. The forms developed by the Agency of Education, based on ideas synthesized from many schools, are samples only and are meant to be modified to fit an EST's needs.




  Who coordinates and assures follow up on a student's EST Plan?

As part of a plan, a specific person should be designated to ensure that all steps in the EST process occur in a coordinated fashion and that the plan is effective.




  How long should a plan remain in effect?

An EST plan should remain in effect as long as the student needs it. EST plans should identify review dates and be reviewed on a regular basis. Regular reviews assure that plans are effective and provide opportunities to revise them or determine whether they continue to be necessary. Rather than ending a plan abruptly, a gradual phase out can ease the transition.




  Should EST plans be part of a student's permanent records?

There are no requirements about where to store EST Plans. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that all identifiable information about a student is part of a student's record.




  Who should have access to a student's EST plan?

Families and everyone involved in the implementation of the plan should have access to or a copy of the plan.




  What happens with plans when students move from grade to grade or school to school?

Schools should develop systems to support the continued implementation of active EST plans when students move between grades and transition from one school to another.




  Can a student with an EST Plan be eligible for alternative assessment within the Vermont assessment system?

Students referred to EST may be eligible for alternative assessment. The decision must be a team decision, with parents participating or providing input. Alternative Assessment Eligibility Forms must be submitted for prior approval by the Vermont Agency of Education. Additional information may be found at /alternate-assessment.




  What funding sources may be used to implement elements of a student's plan that cost money?

A variety of local, state, federal and grant funds may be used to fund supports for students including the following sources: Consolidated Federal Programs, IEP Medicaid Reimbursement, Success Beyond Six, Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT), Safe and Drug Free Schools, Act 60 Poverty and Limited English Proficiency (LEP), BEST and Act 230 grants, Reading Excellence Act/State Improvement Grant/Challenge Grants, Goals 2000.





  How can parents/guardians find out about the EST?

Annually school districts are required to provide all parents with information regarding the existence, purpose, and function of the ESS including the EST.



  How should parents/guardians be involved in the EST?

Schools should tell the parents/guardians that their child is being referred to the EST and why. Informing parents provides an opportunity to discuss concerns and obtain their input and support.




  Are schools required to invite parents to attend EST meetings?

There is no requirement that parents actually attend EST meetings. If parents do not attend the EST meeting, it is important to keep them informed.





  Is the EST a pre-referral for special education?

No. If it is believed that a student clearly has a disability and needs a special education evaluation that student should be referred directly to special education.



  Can students with IEPs be referred to the EST?

Yes. Students with IEPs already have an individual education plan, however, if additional supports or services are needed that are not included on the IEP, an EST plan may be developed to include these supports or services.




  What happens if the EST determines that the student needs a special education evaluation?

The student will be referred for a special education evaluation.






What resources are available from the Vermont Agency of Education to help our EST?

  • Sample forms developed by ESS Consultants including:
    • EST Referral Packet
    • EST Referral form
    • Request for Additional Staff Input form
    • Guidelines for Gathering Family Input form
    • Guidelines for Gathering Student Input form
    • EST Student Plan
  • Rubrics for Developing an Educational Support System
  • Principal's Fact Sheet for the Educational Support System (ESS) (October 2001)
  • Educational Support System Model Policy (May 2001) available on the Vermont School Boards Association Web site: This link will take you off the VT DOE Web site.
  • DOE Web Site: /educational-support-system

Additionally, ESS consultants are available to visit schools and provide consultation and/or workshops about ESS and EST. Workshops can include but are not limited to:

  • Overview of ESS and EST
  • School ESS self-assessment
  • EST structure and development
  • Form development
  • Documentation and record keeping
  • Effective meeting processes and procedures
  • School-wide accommodations
  • Using EST data to identify trends
  • Using EST data in action planning

Contact ESS consultants at




Josh Souliere, ESS Consultant
(802) 479-1492

Page Last Updated on July 27, 2015