IEP teams are required to evaluate the need for Extended School Year (ESY) services correctly and fairly. However, there are no comprehensive eligibility criteria in the law, making the process somewhat vague and inconsistent across teams. Following are some guidelines taken from IDEA and federal court decisions:
Following are several factors that the team can consider when determining the need for ESY services. Regression/recoupment is the more common factor; however, schools must not use it as the ONLY factor.
Regression refers to a decline in knowledge and skills that can result from an interruption in education; recoupment is the amount of time it takes to regain the prior level of functioning. The question is whether or not the benefits gained by the child during the regular school year will be significantly jeopardized if he is not provided an educational program during the summer months. When considering regression/recoupment, teams must consider not only academic skills but also related services. The key question is whether the child needs services in the summer in order to secure the minimum benefits of a free and appropriate public education in the fall.
Emerging skills (as when a child is on the brink of learning to read) – can and should be incorporated into the eligibility analysis. This is because the child is in a critical stage of developing a skill which has great potential for increasing his/her self-sufficiency. If such a skill is not completely acquired and mastered, it is likely that the current level of acquisition will be lost due to the interruption of summer vacation.
Nature and severity of the child’s disability
Another criterion that can be considered in the eligibility determination is the nature and severity of the child’s disability. Although no disability category may be excluded from consideration for ESY, the nature and severity is a key factor in the ESY eligibility determination. Children with severe disabilities are more likely to be involved in ESY programs, since their regression may be more significant, and their recoupment abilities may extend over longer times.
Notice and Timing
It is important to make a decision about ESY early enough in the year to allow the parents adequate time to exercise their right to an appeak. The student’s eligibility for ESY should considered at each annual review meeting. The district must document the discussion and the decision reached after consideration of ESY eligibility at each annual review meeting.
Content and duration of ESY services
Some ESY services may extend over the summer, while others provide only for periodic contact with professionals, or assistance to parents in providing instruction or reinforcement to their children. The IEP team should determine the number of weeks, days per week, and hours per day that each student receiving ESY should be provided. Also, the content of the child’s ESY program must be determined on an individual basis.
Ability of parents to provide an educational structure at home
One of the standards that needs to be considered in determining need for ESY is the ability of the parents to provide an educational structure at home. If parents can provide the proper structure at home, the regression and recoupment issue will not be as severe, thus ESY services through the school staff may not be necessary.
Interventions during the summer may be provided by other than school staff. For example, parents may be able to provide structured opportunities for their children to practice specific skills. Perhaps the student’s utilization of a computer software program will be sufficient to maintain a critical skill. Perhaps accessing an existing community resource, such as a summer recreation program, will meet the need. If so, the provision of such parental services will not necessitate an ESY program. The IEP committee may recommend ESY services after concluding that (a) parents are not able or willing to provide home structured opportunities, or (b) the involvement of ESY staff during the summer is necessary to offset the impact of regression and recoupment.
Taken together, ESY is:
- Based only on the individual student’s skills that are critical to his/her overall educational progress as determined by the IEP committee.
- Designed to maintain student mastery of critical skills and objectives represented on the IEP and achieved during the regular school year.
- Designed to maintain a reasonable readiness to begin the next year.
- Based on multi-criteria and not solely on regression.
- Considered as a strategy for minimizing the regression of skill, thus shortening the time needed to gain back the same level of skill proficiency that existed at the end of the school year.
- Deliverable in a variety of environments and structures such as:
- Home with the parent teaching, and staff consulting
- School based
- School based with community activities
- Related services alone or in tandem with the above
NSPT offers school advocacy services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!