Extended School Year
The need for extended school year (ESY) services must be considered for every student with a disability at each Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team meeting. ESY services must be provided if the IEP team determines that such services are necessary for the provision of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to the student.
To make individualized, student-centered, and data-driven decisions regarding determination for and provision of ESY services, the decisions must be made in sufficient time. The timeliness of decisions about ESY services is affected by knowledge, planning time, data, and dispute resolution.
The student’s IEP team is a group of individuals composed of the student’s parents; the student, if appropriate; general education teacher(s); special education and related service providers; an administrator or school representative; individual(s) who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results; and others, as appropriate. Each member of the IEP team brings important information about the student’s individual needs and his or her academic, social, and behavioral progress.
In considering the needs for ESY services, the IEP team must first answer the following question:
Is there one or more current annual goal(s) that address skills which need to be maintained without interruption for the student to benefit meaningfully from a FAPE?
- There must be at least one current IEP goal where significant concerns exist regarding skill maintenance during a break in services. Goal areas of concern should represent skills essential to the progress of the student.
- The determination of the need for ESY services must be based on data. The IEP team needs to evaluate the data to determine which, if any, goals represent areas of concern that may present significant difficulties in maintaining skills during breaks.
- A student with a goal area of concern may be determined to need ESY services due to:
- A serious potential for regression of skills beyond a reasonable period of recoupment.
- The nature or severity of the disability.
- Critical stages or areas of learning.
If there are no identified goal areas of concern, then ESY services are not needed for a FAPE.
- Are there data that indicate to the IEP team that in the identified goal area(s) of concern there is a serious potential for regression of skills beyond a reasonable period of recoupment?
- Regression refers to the inability of the student to maintain an acquired skill in an identified goal area of concern when special education instruction or related services in an IEP goal area are interrupted and require an unreasonable amount of time for recoupment.
- Recoupment is the student’s capacity to recover those regressed skills to a level demonstrated prior to the break in instruction.
- This is a two-part question: (1) there must be serious potential for regression of skills related to the goal area(s) of concern, and (2) the potential period of recoupment must be beyond a reasonable amount of time.
- The IEP team determines what a reasonable period of recoupment is for the goal area(s) of concern for each student. In making this determination, the IEP team must consider the unique needs of the student, rather than basing the determination on a formula. This is because formulas do not provide the individualization needed for this type of decision. It is not possible to develop a formula that can take into account the unique needs of all of the students with disabilities in the state of Michigan. Any formula, by its nature, will inadvertently exclude someone from appropriate consideration for ESY services.
- The IEP team needs to take into account the fact that all students, whether receiving general education or special education instruction, lose skills when there is a break in services. Students who lose skills over breaks in service, but who can recoup those skills with re-teaching in a reasonable amount of time, are not eligible for ESY services. This is the case with most students with disabilities.
- The provision of ESY services cannot be limited only to those students who have actually experienced serious regression of skills requiring an unreasonable amount of time for recoupment. The IEP team must assess the potential for such difficulties in regression and recoupment.
- Are there data regarding the nature or severity of the disability of the student that indicate to the IEP team that there is a need to provide services in the identified goal area(s) of concern during breaks in the school year?
- The IEP team must consider whether the nature or severity of the student’s disability requires highly-structured or consistent programming without substantial breaks in service in order to make progress in the identified goal area(s) of concern.
- If a student requires more consistent or highly-structured programming techniques due to the severity of the disability, the student may be more vulnerable to the loss of essential skills when the school program is interrupted.
- A student with severe disabilities may revert to lower-functioning levels or exhibit more behaviors which interfere with learning after a long break in programming.
- A student’s mental, emotional, or physical health, or the chronic nature of his or her disability, may also indicate the need for ESY services in order to maintain skills that otherwise would be lost and not recovered in a reasonable amount of time.
- Are there data that indicate to the IEP team that in the identified goal area(s) of concern, the student is at a critical stage of learning or in a critical area of learning where failure to provide a service beyond the normal school year will severely limit the student’s capacity to acquire essential skills?
- A critical stage in learning means that this learning must occur without delay and that learning the skills in the identified goal area(s) of concern will enhance the student’s ability to function independently. For example, very young students with significant disabilities may require ESY services to prevent loss of critical language, behavior, or self-help skills they learned during the school year.
- A critical area of learning means an area of instruction that is essential to the student’s development in becoming self-sufficient and independent. This includes skills that are essential for the promotion and maintenance of the student’s self-sufficiency. Skills such as toileting and eating are essential for minimal independence; stable relationships, impulse control, and appropriate peer interactions are necessary for community living.
The critical stage/critical area of learning must be identified, and the following questions must be answered:
- Is there a skill that needs to be mastered immediately? If the student does not master the skill immediately, is the degree of mastery likely to be permanently reduced? What data support this?
- Is the student at a critical stage of development where there is a window of opportunity that will be lost if services are not provided? What data support this?
- Are there changes in the student’s medical, physical, or sensory status that make it possible to predict an accelerated rate of learning during the ESY period (critical stage)? What data support this?
- Is the skill in a critical area of learning, and will a break in services result in the loss of a window of opportunity for mastering the skill? What data support this?
If one or more of these questions on critical stages/areas of learning is answered yes, then the IEP team needs to develop an ESY plan.
If all of these questions are answered no, then ESY services are not needed for a FAPE.
Data Guide to ESY Decisions
Determination of the need for ESY services must be based on data. Data sources may include:
- Progress monitoring data on IEP goals and objectives.
- Data recorded and provided by parents.
- Data from another school district that the student attended.
- Interviews with present and past teachers or service providers, the parents, and the student.
- Medical records indicating that the student has experienced significant trauma making the need for services immediate.
- Data that indicate continuous or year-round programming is an integral part of the teaching methodology used with the student.
- Vocational or pre-vocational assessments.
- Data that indicates loss of access to on-the-job training that will potentially result in significant delays in mastering critical prevocational or vocational skills.
- Developmental standards within the goal area(s) of concern that indicate the student is at a critical stage of learning.
Example 1: Regression/Recoupment
There is a consistent pattern of learning. It may be a steady baseline, or an increase in skill acquisition, with a drop in student performance following a break in instruction. It then takes the student an extended time to regain the previous level of acquired skill/level of performance.
Example 2: Critical stages or areas of learning
The data may look like a very slow rate of learning with a sudden and/or steep incline/increase prior to a break in instruction.
Example 3: Nature and severity
The data pattern may show a significant drop in performance of goal maintenance after a break in the consistency of programming.
Delivery of ESY Services
ESY services can be provided in a variety of ways. Ways these services can be provided include (but are not limited to):
- A traditional classroom setting.
- School-based programs that vary in length of schedule.
- Daily instruction in specific IEP goal areas.
- Small group instruction.
- One or more related service(s) at a community recreation program.
- Cooperative programs with other agencies.
- Intra-school cooperative programs.
- Consultation with a job coach.
- Intensive short-term instruction at various points in the summer months to prevent regression.
- A week of intensive review just prior to the beginning of the school year.
- Home-based programs that include parent training.
Related services (including therapy services and transportation) and supplemental aids and services must be considered, as well as instructional programming, when developing a plan for ESY services. IEP teams are encouraged to be creative in providing ESY services.
ESY services can be offered through summer school, although offering summer school by itself is not an acceptable substitute for ESY services. The summer school setting can offer meaningful opportunities for a student, as well as provide frequent practice for the maintenance of skills. However, ESY services must be tailored to the unique needs of each student and cannot be based solely on the availability of services during the summer. The IEP should specifically indicate how a summer school program would address the student’s unique educational needs and what specific special education and/or related services, as well as supplemental aids and services, will be provided to meet those needs at the summer school program.
Least restrictive environment (LRE) requirements for ESY services are not identical to LRE requirements for the normal school year.
The requirements for placement in the LRE during the academic year apply to ESY services. However, a school is not required to create new programs as a means of providing ESY services to students with disabilities in integrated or inclusive settings if the school does not provide services at that time for its students without disabilities.
Similarly, a school is not prohibited from providing ESY services to a student with a disability in a non-educational setting if the student’s IEP team determines that the student could receive necessary ESY services in that setting. The IEP team should consider a flexible service model that takes the individualized needs of the student into account. For example, when social goals and objectives are targeted for ESY services, the IEP team needs to take into account whether the student needs opportunities for interaction with same-age peers in a non-school setting if the usual school setting is not available.