Special education doesn’t stop just because it’s summer vacation. Extended school year, or ESY, is a continuation of your child’s IEP when school is out of session. But it doesn’t just happen. Here’s what you need to know.
5 Tips to Understand Extended School Year
Just a reminder: nothing on this website or in this article is considered to be or should be construed as legal advice. I am not a lawyer and am not qualified to provide legal advice. Any action you do or do not take when advocating on behalf of your child’s education is, as always, your own.
Extended school year is a program and placement designed to ensure that your child doesn’t lose skills over vacation periods. But that’s not the only reason your child could be qualified for ESY.
What is Extended School Year?
Extended school year (ESY) is different from summer school.
Summer school program is designed for students who have low grades. The goal is to help these students move toward mastery of concepts taught in the previous grade. Sometimes, summer school is required for students to progress to the next grade. Any student can attend.
ESY is specifically for students with IEPs. During this program, they will work on their IEP goals and receive services like physical therapy or occupational therapy.
How Could My Child Qualify for ESY?
ESY isn’t for every child with an IEP, but it is a good fit for many children receiving special education.
Typically, a student might qualify for ESY if they:
- have a documented history of regression following breaks from school
- are on the cusp of mastering a new skill, concept, or IEP goal
Many schools will identify students who might or could qualify for ESY. However, sometimes parents need to be strong advocates and push for services over the summer.
The final decision will be made as a team, during a meeting. You will need to provide written consent and it will be documented in a PWN.
What Does ESY Look Like?
Honestly, this can look different for every child. Every child has different needs and requires different things.
In practice, many schools create an ESY location parallel to traditional summer school. It would resemble a typical school setting, with general education and special education delivered side-by-side. Typically, these are short, half-days of school. Students are released around lunch. However, this may not be the case in all districts or for all students.
This is often done for one main reason: staffing. Summer school is hard to staff with educators and service providers. It makes logistical sense to cluster resources in just a few locations in order to ensure that services are provided as required.
However, there are lots of (almost infinite) different options available, like:
- 1:1 academic tutoring
- just therapeutic services, like speech or OT
- traditional summer school, with pull-out services from special educators
- virtual schooling or tutoring
Figuring out what ESY looks like for your child is a negotiation process.
Talking About ESY with the IEP Team
When you bring up ESY with the team, it’s important to know some facts – or be prepared to find out some data.
Think about these questions:
- What happened after the last summer or winter vacation?
- Was your child about where they were prior to the break?
- Was there significant regression in skills, behaviors, or academic progress?
- How long did it take your child to return to the pre-vacation baseline?
- What would ESY options look like for my child?
Your child’s teachers should be ready to share progress monitoring data from before and after vacations. Look for dips in progress. That is a key indicator of regression, or going back to a previous skill level and losing ground.
They might also say they need time to progress monitor or analyze data from the past. That’s totally valid. You can always revisit the ESY question at a future meeting. However, you should try to get a timeline from them so that you can plan your future schedule.
My Child Was Denied for ESY – What Now?
If your child is denied ESY services this summer, and you think they need it, you can always circle back around.
You should ask your child’s teachers to provide some baseline data from the last 6-8 weeks of school. This, along with their final IEP progress report, will let you know their level of success just before summer vacation.
Then, immediately when school starts up again, ask the IEP team to start taking data right away, for 6-8 weeks. This will establish their baseline of success right after summer vacation.
When the two sets of data are compared, you should look for significant dips in skills, returning unwanted behavior, or if academic content that was previously learned has been forgotten.
Now, some content and skills are lost by all children every summer. It’s totally normal. But when your child takes considerably longer to build up those skills in the first place, any backsliding can be rough.
Keeping and comparing data over time is essential to proving your case for ESY.
On the other hand, there are a few red flags that should cause some alarm:
- Your child doesn’t qualify because we only serve students with…
- That’s predetermination. ESY shouldn’t be restricted to students with or without certain disabilities.
- Your child hasn’t had ESY in the past.
- Past need doesn’t indicate present need; each summer should be taken individually and based on the most recent data.
- Aren’t you moving this summer?
- Just because you are moving doesn’t mean your child is ineligible for ESY; remember, whatever is written into the IEP in the sending district must be reasonably adopted in the receiving district – in other words, if your child would be getting ESY in District A, then they should be getting ESY when you arrive in District B.
- We don’t have space for your child.
- ESY isn’t limited by capacity; eligibility is determined by need.
- Your child’s disability isn’t bad enough.
- Well, what does “bad enough” mean? If your child has significant regression after vacations, they should be considered for ESY.