Extended School Year (ESY)

What is Extended School Year (ESY)?

Extended School Year (ESY) is something that schools and families usually consider in the April/May time frame. So why are we looking at this now?

There are actually a few important reasons for this. ESY services are individualized special education and/or related services (such as speech/language therapy or occupational therapy) that are uniquely designed to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to a student with disabilities (as mandated by IDEA). The need for ESY services must be determined on an individual basis by the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT). Once the MDT has determined there is a need for ESY an IEP amendment will be developed to identify and address the specific areas where the team has determined the need for ESY. The IEP developed for ESY must include goals and objectives.  It should also discuss how and when those services should be provided, including both the days of the school year and the hours of the school day. ESY services must be provided at no cost to the parents.

It’s important to understand that ESY services are not the same as:

  • summer school
  • compensatory services
  • enrichment programs
  • IDEA Regulations and Extended School Year Services

The IDEA regulations define “extended school year services” as special education and related services that:

  • Are provided to a child with a disability
  • Beyond the normal school year of the public agency (typically the school district);
  • In accordance with a child’s IEP;
  • At no cost to the parents of the child; and
  • Meet the standards of the State Educational Agency

As you will note in this description of ESY, there is not a set time or place when ESY occurs. ESY services may be needed during the summer and / or during shorter breaks (such as winter and spring holiday breaks) of one or two weeks in length. ESY services can even be an extension of the student’s normal school day, such as a special tutoring program. It is important to understand that ESY services are not a continuation of the student’s entire special education program. Some students may need only certain instruction and/or related services (such as reading instruction or speech/language therapy) outside of the normal school year. Any student who is eligible to receive special education and related services may be eligible for ESY. The decision is based solely on the individual needs of the student.

All school districts must ensure that ESY services are available and necessary to provide FAPE to eligible students. Here are other requirements to take into consideration:

  • The specific type of disability does not determine eligibility.
  • Districts are not allowed to limit ESY services to categories of disability.
  • Districts cannot alone limit the type, amount or duration of ESY services.

Districts may not use a lack of resources as a reason for not examining a student’s possible need for ESY services, or for not providing ESY services to an eligible student. They may be able to provide ESY services to eligible students by contracting with a nearby district or private provider.

While ESY services typically take place over the summer months since there is a focus on regression and recoupment of skills, this is not the sole reason to implement ESY.

Other reasons for ESY could be:

  • The nature and severity of the student’s disability. The MDT may consider ESY if the nature and severity of the disability is likely to significantly jeopardize the student’s ability to benefit from services if the student has a stop in instructional support.
  • The student’s degree of progress toward IEP goals.
  • How quickly is the student progressing from year to year without ESY services?
  • Will the loss of services during the school break significantly jeopardize the student’s progress toward the goals?
  • The student’s emerging skills and breakthrough opportunities.
  • Is the student at a breakthrough point in a critical skill or skills, such as reading?
  • Will the interruption of services and instruction significantly jeopardize the educational benefit the student is receiving from the specialized instruction or related service(s)?
  • The student’s behavior(s). The student may need ESY services to keep the behaviors from significantly jeopardizing the educational learning during the next school year. If this is the case, management of such behaviors should be part of the student’s current IEP.
  • Special circumstances or other factors. Are there other special circumstances or factors that could significantly put at risk the student’s learning during the normal school year?

Special circumstances or other factors mentioned above might include:

  • The student’s opportunity to interact with children without disabilities in what IDEA calls the “least restrictive environment.” In other words, will a break in services set him back so much that, once school resumes, he’ll need to spend less time in the general education classroom and more time receiving intensive/specialized instruction elsewhere?
  • The specific areas of the student’s curriculum that need continuous attention.
  • The educational structure in the student’s home (e.g., having parents who are willing and able to give the child adequate learning support and reinforcement).
  • How are ESY services determined?
  • The need for services are determined using formal or informal evaluations. This could be a simple data sheet to a more complex assessment. No matter what the strategy for gathering information, it is important to remember that this data can be provided by the district or the parents.
  • If a student requires a significant amount of time to recoup critical skills, then the MDT must discuss whether the student needs extended educational or related services during school breaks. If the loss of acquired critical skills would be substantial, or if such loss results in immediate physical harm to the student or to others, ESY services may be justified without consideration of the period for recoupment of such skills.

With the holiday break and the upcoming spring breaks, make sure you keep track of the skills and the length of time it appears the student needs to relearn the information. If we wait till the end of the year for these discussions, we may easily forget the other times the student has had difficulties.

Keeping track of the information throughout the year helps to demonstrate the need more easily. Some of the types of information to be reviewed, might be:

  • Current and previous IEP goals
  • Classroom tests and grades
  • Classroom observations (by qualified professionals such as a school psychologist or social worker)
  • Standardized tests, including statewide assessments in key academic subjects such as reading and math
  • Student work samples
  • Progress monitoring data
  • Attendance information (e.g., frequent illness that has kept the student out of school, causing him to lose ground academically)
  • Parent interviews and input
  • Expert opinions from professionals outside the school

Some additional factors to keep in mind are:

  • The determination of whether a student is eligible for ESY should not be made so late in the normal school year that the family would not be able to exercise its due process rights to challenge the decision.
  • Eligibility for ESY services one year does not guarantee future eligibility.
  • Eligibility for ESY services includes the provision of transportation to and from the location of the services.
  • ESY services are not required to maximize a student’s potential. Just as students without disabilities do not have a right to an education designed to maximize their potential, neither are school districts required by IDEA to maximize the potential of students with disabilities.

The State Directors of Special Education (OSEP 2013) has made it clear that students transferring schools during the summer who have ESY in the IEP they bring with them. The new school district generally must provide ESY services as comparable services to a transfer student, and may not refuse to provide services to a child merely because the services would be provided during the summer.

With the school year coming to a midway point now is the time to assure that you, as the parent, are aware of the potential opportunities that ESY can provide. Talk with your child’s teachers and put in writing that ESY be considered if you have any concerns.

Resources for this article:

Special Education Guide

Great Schools

Wrights Law



Extended School Year (ESY) that elusive process that leaves us scratching our heads

Extended school year (ESY) was first established in federal law by the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1997 (IDEA ’97).

While ESY services were to be a part of the planning for students prior to 1997 this requirement was drawn from case law. IDEA ’97 didn’t create new standards for ESY instead brought together well-established case law in the area. IDEA 2004 retained the same ESY requirements as IDEA ’97.

A central issue in FAPE is the IEP team’s determination of what services are appropriate. The process used in developing the IEP ensures that students with disabilities have appropriate education goals within the IEP. The planning for the goals is based on appropriate evaluation, to accommodate their unique instructional needs and that these needs are met in appropriate learning environments. The IEP process ensures that student with disabilities receive an appropriate education. A major issue regarding appropriate education centers on if the educational program is sufficient to provide meaningful educational benefit. The concept of benefit is a central point in consideration during the determination of needed services as a part of the IEP process.

The IEP team examines a student’s present level of performance or skill development, as well what might be needed for the student to progress beyond that level if provided with an effective program. The critical question that each IEP team must ask regarding ESY services is whether the learning that occurred during the regular school year will be significantly jeopardized if ESY services are not provided. Reasons why ESY services may be needed vary from student to student. For some students the issue may center on regression of social, behavioral, communication, academic, or self-sufficiency skills during interruptions in instruction. (This is the most commonly cited reason given by districts for why a student should or should not receive ESY). However, it is not the only reason for the need to receive ESY.

DREDF, a National Disability Rights Organization has the most comprehensive list of potential reasons ESY might be consider. Among these are two that may make a difference in how parents ask if their child is benefitting from their educational placement. It is important to consider that there are students that may experience losses because they reach a critical learning stage or concept and the break at the end of a school year may cause irreparable loss of that learning opportunity. For some students routine is paramount in helping them maintain skills that support continued placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Such continuity in learning can only happen through the use of ESY services. Additional information on reasons for ESY can be found at http://dredf.org/mail-se/2012/february/Extended-School-Year-Services.html

The determination of whether a student with a disability needs ESY services must be made on an individual basis and made by the IEP team. Districts may not have restrictive policies based on disability category, age, one specific reason for providing ESY, one type of setting, or an arbitrary length of time (by week, hour, or day) based on standards beyond that of the needs of the individual student.

Parents, students, and school staff should plan together and answer the questions regarding student needs. This may be:

Has the student demonstrated difficulty in regaining skills after breaks in service/ If so how long do they typically take to regain those skills?

Is (student) finally gaining a skill that he or she didn’t have before? Is that new found skill apt to be lost or irrepealably delayed because of a break in services?

Does (student) have routines that are critical to helping them stay in program, on task, or within the current environment? Will time away from this structure cause difficulties or deny the student FAPE?

ESY can also include Related Services that are needed to support the learning needs of the student. When considering the needs of students some points to remember include:

Remember, ESY services are to maintain skills already acquired, not to learn new skills that would be a nice side benefit.

ESY is not the same as summer school, but some summer school programs could satisfy ESY requirements.

Not all goals on the IEP need to be addressed during ESY nor do you need a new IEP for ESY services. The purpose is to continue progress toward already established goals.

A student who receives ESY services one year does not automatically guarantee he or she will be eligible for ESY the following year. All students with disabilities must be considered for ESY services at least annually.

Whether your child/student has received ESY in the past, it is important to know reasons why he or she may or may not qualify this year. Decisions regarding ESY need to take place early enough so that if there is disagreement between parents and schools, the procedural safeguards and protections can be put into place and resolved so as not to deny or delay services in the event they are deemed appropriate.

Understanding Extended School Year (ESY)

What is Extended School Year?

Extended school year is helpful in determining whether a student who qualifies for special education services has received a Free Appropriate public education for the school year. It can be confusing on what establishes ESY and who qualifies for the services.

One of the many questions that come up is: “Will the student’s progress during the school year be impacted if an educational program is not provided during the summer?”  Hopefully this article will provide some understanding on Extended School Year services for your student.

ESY is special education and related services provided past the regular 180-day school year.  Extended school year is not the same as summer school. The student’s IEP team determines (which includes the parent) eligibility for the ESY services.  The services are provided according to goals, related services and other supports that are written in the students current IEP.   ESY is provided at no cost to the parents, the services can vary in the amount of time,intensity, and the need of related services.

ESY is intended to address the student’s critical life skills, assist students with disabilities whose skills are emerging, maintaining specific IEP goals in order for the student to benefit educationally.

How and when is eligibility determined?    WAC 392-172A-02020

All students on an IEP are considered for ESY services annually and the IEP meeting should be held timely in case the student does not qualify this will allow parents time to implement their rights.  Extended School Year is established individually and is not based on: Category; Disability; or placement.  During the school year the IEP team should collect and maintain quantitative and qualitative data to assist in the determination for services

The IEP team (which includes the parent) most often will have a guide or document for data collection, observations, and other information that address:

Regression recoupment:

Regression is the loss of critical life skills;

IEP goals for critical life skills:

Progress toward IEP goals

Emerging skills


Impact and severity of disability

Any Special Circumstances:

Regression recoupment is not the sole basis for providing ESY, all students disabled or non-disabled can regress during the school breaks.

How is ESY implemented?

The IEP team will determine (which includes the parent) the amount of services, which goals will be worked on, the location, the amount of services and for how long, and the related services that will be provided.  There is a possibility that a student may only receive related services for their extended school year services.

How are parents notified of Extended School Year Services?

When the IEP team completes the determination, the school district will give prior written notice to parents prior to ESY services being implemented.

Is Transportation provided for my student to and from Extended School Year?


Extended School Year and Least Restrictive Environment

Extended School Year services are to be provided in the least restrictive environment, however school districts are not expected to develop new programs to implement ESY services.  The IEP team makes sure that services are available to meet the needs of each student with a disability who will qualify for ESY services.

What if you disagree with the Extended School year services for my student?

Parents are active and valued IEP team members when there is disagreement all team members should work in partnership to resolve the disagreement.  If there is no agreement parents are provided their procedural safeguards (Parent Rights) that list other alternatives available to them.  To download a copy of your procedural safeguards go to: http://www.k12.wa.us/SpecialEd/Families/Rights.aspx