What do you do when the school district denies your child with a disability extended school year (ESY) services? What every parent needs to know.
Has your child been denied extended school year services or do you have questions about how districts decide whether students qualify for ESY? Below, I am going to list the ways students can qualify for ESY services and tell you how to get around the common method districts use.
Extended school year services are made available to students on an individual basis and are there to ensure that a student is provided with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). A district cannot limit the availability of ESY based on a student’s disability category. They also cannot make unilateral decisions on the type, amount, or duration of ESY services. Extended school year should not be confused with summer school.
ESY is provided to students with disabilities, beyond the normal school year, in accordance with the child’s IEP, and is free to parents. While it is the IEP team who determines if a student qualifies for ESY, more often than not, the school district makes the decision and shares this determination with the parents. As a parent, how do you refute the district’s denial?
Often, a district will look at a student’s progress reports and data collected before and after breaks to show if the child regressed over the breaks and took longer than normal to recoup the information that was lost. While this is one way to look at qualification for ESY, and honestly, it is the one used by a large majority of districts, it is not the only determining factor.
Two other options are allowed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). First, a student can qualify for ESY services if he or she has shown no growth, little growth, or inconsistent growth on their IEP goals. This would show that the student did not receive a FAPE throughout the school year and requires ESY for a FAPE. A core construct of FAPE is a meaningful educational benefit for the child. To determine if a child needs ESY services to receive a FAPE, the IEP team must examine a child’s present level of educational development or skill acquisition as well as the child’s ability to progress beyond that level if provided with an effective program. If that program results in a lack of growth, then the child has not received an appropriate education to allow for a meaningful educational benefit and is entitled to ESY services.
The second option allowed under IDEA is when a child exhibits a breakthrough skill right before summer break and requires ESY to continue the growth of that skill. An example of this would be a nonverbal, elementary-aged student who has been receiving speech therapy all school year with minimal progress. In April, this student finally speaks a few words in a manner to meaningfully communicate with his therapist. Throughout April, that student says even more words. He would qualify for extended school year services to continue this growth and not lose the skill he just acquired.
In conclusion, extended school year services can be provided to a student who shows regression and lack of recoupment, minimal or inconsistent growth on IEP goals, or who shows an explosion of skills right at the end of the school year and needs summer services to continue this growth. ESY is data-driven so be sure that the data supports the need for extended school year services. While data is black and white, ESY decisions do not have to be. Ensure that the IEP team does not gloss over the discussion of extended school year services. Review your data beforehand and present your argument to the team on why your child meets the criteria for ESY. Lastly, hold your ground.
Written by Danielle Randolph, Special Education Advocate at Albeit Weiker, LLP
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