Federal and state law recognize that sometimes students with disabilities need to continue receiving services over the summer to help them make meaningful progress on their IEP goals. Those services are commonly called “Extended School Year” or ESY.
Note that all IEP teams must discuss ESY services at some point during the school year. There are no exceptions to this rule. So, while not every child will be eligible for ESY, all students with IEPs must be considered for it. Also note that ESY services are provided to eligible students at no cost. It is commonly (though not always) provided as part of a four or five-week summer school program.
The ESY two-step – Whether a student qualifies for ESY is a two-step process. The framework districts use is complicated, so as a parent you’ll want to make sure you understand each step. In the first step, the team considers these factors:
- Will the student show significant regression in a critical life skill related to their IEP goals absent ESY?
- Is the severity of the student’s disability mean that they need ESY services so that they can benefit from their educational program during the regular school year?
- Is the student at a critical juncture towards mastery of an important life skill?
If the student meets any one (doesn’t have to be all) of these three criteria, then the team considers these factors in the second step of process:
- Regression – will the student see a significant loss of skills or behaviors if educational services are interrupted in any area specified on the IEP? This can be a common area of disagreement on IEP teams.
- Recoupment – at what rate will the student recover academic or other skills to a level demonstrated before interruption of services provided through the IEP?
- Critical Learning Stage – is the student at a critical stage of developing an important academic, social or behavioral skill? Will that skill help promote self-sufficiency?
In making this determination, the IEP team will rely on data or other objective measures, such as in-class observations of the student, a review of the student’s work, or before/after test scores.
Special Education Pro Tip – Don’t wait for the district. Ask for ESY every year.
While schools are supposed to discuss ESY for every student with an IEP (and early enough so that parents have time to appeal any denials), the reality is that ESY is one of those services parents need to advocate for early and often. So, if you feel your child needs summer services, ask the IEP team to observe and collect data on how your child performs before and after long breaks from school (e.g., mid-winter break, spring break). Take note of any emerging skills, such as managing school routines with minimal meltdowns or reminders. Look at your child’s completed school work and see if you notice any trends, such as failure to consistently complete assigned tasks. You’ll need to play both the role of advocate and detective to make the case for ESY.
Want to learn more? Here is ESY information for parents from local school districts, and article from a national parent/family advocate
Bellevue School District (scroll down to “ESY” section)
Wrightslaw: Extended School Year Services