IEPs AND FAPE
Every student with an IEP is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). As a part of FAPE, school districts are sometimes required to provide specially designed instruction and/or related services to students outside of regular school days and hours. When, to receive FAPE, a student needs services over the summer or during shorter breaks, such as the winter holiday or spring break, then the district is required to provide those services. Whether a student qualifies for services outside the regular school calendar is decided by the IEP team, which must include parents. ESY is an often missed or ignored component of an IEP meeting. Keep in mind that ESY must be discussed for each student with an IEP at least one time per year, at the annual IEP meeting. If the IEP team determines that ESY is necessary for a student to receive FAPE, then ESY must be offered to the student.
ESY is special education and/or related services the district provides outside of the regular school day or year for IEP students who are eligible. ESY is available for IEP students who will, or likely will, significantly lose skills over breaks from school services. The purpose of ESY is to help students retain the skills they have learned during the school year, until the school year resumes or re-starts after a break. ESY services can be almost anything that a child needs to receive their FAPE. Generally, ESY services might mirror the types of special education and related services a student receives during the school year, but in a smaller amount. For example, for a child who received 90 minutes of specially designed instruction for reading during a school week, ESY might be 45 minutes of reading instruction each week that the child receives ESY services. ESY is not summer school, help catchingup, compensatory services, or credit recovery. ESY is for IEP students who need special education support during breaks or would be in jeopardy of not retaining skills learned while school was in session.
Generally speaking, there are two ways that a student “qualifies” for ESY. Regression/recoupment analysis is the most often used method to determine whether a student qualifies for ESY. This model looks at data for individual IEP goals and objectives right before a break (winter, spring, summer) to determine a student’s current performance. Then, once the student returns from break, data is again taken on the student’s IEP goals and objectives to see if s/he regressed/lost skills. If the student performs worse on any IEP goals or objectives after a break, then the recoupment time is examined. After a bit of time has passed, data is taken again on the same IEP goals and objectives to see if the student was able to recoup the skills within a reasonable time.
For a student who regresses but recoups the skills in a short time frame, ESY is generally not determined to be necessary. For a student who regresses and does not recoup in a reasonable amount of time, ESY would likely be determined necessary for the child to receive FAPE. The other way to look at eligibility for ESY services is “predictive factors.” These are factors to be looked at that might help “predict” whether an IEP student is in need of ESY. There are no definitive factors or specific criteria. Rather, as with all IEP decisions, the ESY discussion is to be individualized. Predictive factors that could be considered, if applicable to the child being discussed, include a history of losing skills over breaks, problems re-adjusting to the routines and demands of school after breaks, or the specific nature of the disability and its impact on an individual child.
CUSTOM FIT: ESY services might mirror the types of special education a student receives during the school year, but in a smaller amount. For a child who received 90 minutes of specially designed instruction for reading during a school week, ESY might be 45 minutes of reading instruction each week that the child receives ESY services.
PURPOSE OF ESY
The reason for ESY is often counter-intuitive to parents. ESY is simply for the maintenance of skills so that when the children resume school they will not have lost what was gained before the break. One parent was heard to inquire whether a child would actually be prevented from learning new skills. Of course, that is not the case, but the focus of ESY is not on acquiring new skills. Thus, for the parent who is hoping to work on “closing a gap” or “catching up,” ESY is not the appropriate avenue.
LOCATION OF SUMMER ESYSERVICES
Most medium to large school districts have ESY programs that run each summer. Generally, all ESY services within a district are provided in one school each summer, regardless of the students’ ages. ESY is generally offered somewhere between four and