There are SO many acronyms in this world of special education! IEP, LRE, FAPE...and those are just the basics! Today we're going to talk about a lesser-known acronym: ESY, which stands for "Extended school year," and it's exactly what its name betrays.
First, some background. What is ESY? Extended school year is the provision of educational services for a student with a disability beyond what's typically provided in a school year. Nearly always, this refers to the provision of services over the summer when the majority of students have their months-long break.
In order to quality for ESY, a student must be eligible for special education services and have a current IEP in place. ESY services are intended for students who fall into one or more of the following categories:
ESY is NOT intended to teach new skills or to allow a student to "catch up" to grade level. Rather, it's intended to help a student recoup lost skills or maintain current skills.
Here are 5 things you need to know about ESY if this is something that's new to you:
1. A decision about ESY must be made every year. This decision is often skimmed over in the annual IEP meeting with barely a mention. I've been in a ton of meetings where someone on the team is flipping through the draft, looking for the signature page, and says while reading the last few pages, "Transportation needs? No. ESY? No. Here's where you sign..." and keeps going. However, it is your right as a parent to ask about ESY, be an equal member of the decision team about whether ESY is warranted, and to ask that the team's approval or refusal of ESY be documented with reason for approval or refusal in the meeting's Prior Written Notice (PWN).
2. Having ESY services one year does not guarantee that they will be approved any other year. In each discussion the team should weigh the context of the past year, the child's current present levels, the current state and rate of growth of the child, and whether ESY services would make sense given the conditions required for approval discussed above. Even if the student was determined to be in need of ESY services previously, they will not be granted ESY services year-to-year unless the data supports that the need still exists as it did previously.
3. ESY services can look like anything your child's needs. Just like EVERY OTHER part of the IEP process, ESY services provided for your child must be based on his or her needs, NOT based on what the school typically provides. Often I'll hear a school refer to their ESY "program" or ESY "classroom" and discuss whether the child in question would be a good fit for it. This is not how it works! If it's determined that the child needs ESY, the school must provide ESY in a way that benefits the child-- even if that means at your home, in a one-to-one format, at a specific time of day, etc. ESY is individualized, not a blanket "summer school" program that you can opt into.
4. ESY can include related services. If your student needs something to be successful during the school year, they are entitled to have that something during ESY-- assistive technology, an aide, transportation to/from school, etc. Note, however, that this will be determined by the reasons why ESY was approved. If your student is in ESY because his or her math skills have regressed, the school may not approve Speech Therapy services during the summer if he/she is making appropriate progress on the speech goals. ESY will focus solely on the unmet need(s) from the school year.
5. ESY guidelines vary by state. If you're going to push for ESY, be sure that you're aware of the criteria in your state! Your best bet is to search your state's Department of Education website or do an internet search for "[your state] extended school year."
I know that's a lot, and I hope it's shown you that at the very least you need to be asking about ESY in your next meeting! It can be a needed and helpful addition to a child's educational services when utilized appropriately.
Do you have any experience advocating for ESY? Share about it over on our FB group! We'd love to hear your thoughts.