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The City Journals

Highland Park Elementary and the ELP

May 05, 2016 04:11PM ● By Elizabeth Suggs

By Elizabeth Suggs 

Sugar House - Gifted and advanced Students at Highland Park Elementary have a chance to participate in the ELP (Extended Learning Program). 

The Extended Learning Program (ELP) is an opportunity for students from kindergarten through eighth grade to fine-tune their advanced or gifted skills by “discovering through depth and complexity,” as ELP’s motto puts it. To take part in the program, students demonstrate their advanced thinking in the classroom or at home by being tested on both thinking and skill level. 

“I believe that all students should learn something new every day,” Michele Riggs, district ELP supervisor, said. “Students who qualify for magnet or neighborhood ELP often know 50–70 percent of the grade-level curriculum. If they are not challenged with more rigor and higher-order thinking skills, depth, and complexity they often become bored and oftentimes are labeled as being behavior problems and lazy.”

The curriculum for NELP students includes U.S. constitution and civics, mock trials, future problem solving, divergent thinking, productive thinking, habits of mind and the language and plays of Shakespeare, among other areas of study.

To engage students further, NELP teacher Pam Krieps has an overarching goal of creating students who are confident, complex thinkers and creative problem solvers. This gives the students the opportunity to express themselves through familiar venues, Krieps said, and feel confident that even if what they do is different from someone else doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. 

“We have monthly meetings which help us stay on track with administrative requirements as well as providing us help with testing sessions and curriculum development,” Krieps said. “Michele Riggs, our ELP director, is 100 percent on our side and wants what is best for all of us and our students.”

For Highland Park Elementary, ELP means a stable and strong neighborhood for students to participate in the program and at school. The difference between ELP and NELP is simple, says Krieps. 

The district ELP department is involved with Highland Park’s Neighborhood Extended Learning Program (NELP). ELP includes both NELP and Magnet ELP (MELP), which are full-time ELP classes.

“I believe ELP at Highland Park is an inclusive rather than exclusive program,” Krieps said. “Students normally test into NELP and remain in NELP each of their last three years of elementary school.”

According to Krieps, students who do not get into NELP and whose teachers feel the particular student could use a math challenge, are invited to a math Olympiad competition held for all fifth and sixth graders. 

The math Olympiad competition is held by an ELP teacher once a month for five months, according to Krieps. 

Sixth-grade students who are not part of the NELP and whose teachers believe they are highly qualified in both vocabulary and reading development are invited to the NELP’s Shakespeare class. The class is designed for students who have a higher proficiency in reading and vocabulary. This is a two-month session and students “leave with a thirst for Shakespeare and the knowledge that they are capable of decoding his works in their future academic careers,” Krieps said. 

NELP teachers, according to Krieps, have to service schools around two and a half days per week. This gives students and teachers enough time together to meet the needs of high-ability students.

“If we had full-time NELP teachers, extra NELP classes could be scheduled, lower grades serviced, etc.,” Krieps said. “The models of service would possibly look different at each school, but the main idea [is] the same, and there is the rub. Full-time NELP teachers in elementary schools are highly unlikely.”