Extended School Year and the IEP Student: A Guide for Parents

Extended School Year and the IEP Student: A Guide for Parents


Imagine your child making significant progress during the school year, only to lose those hard-earned skills during summer break. Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common for many students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

Extended School Year (ESY) services are designed to help prevent this regression, providing crucial support for IEP students during the summer months.

In this post, we will explore the eligibility criteria, data collection to support the need for ESY, what to expect during ESY, and how parents can advocate for their child’s right to these essential services.

What is Extended School Year (ESY)?

Individualized Programming- The ESY instruction must align with the IEP goals and be specific to the child. The IEP skills to be maintained during ESY should be outlined, and a progress report should be provided. Just because your child did not meet some of their IEP goals, it does not mean they are guaranteed ESY. And parents need to note ESY is not used for “additional learning”; it is ONLY to address the IEP goals.

Eligibility - Like all IEP decisions, a single data point should not be the determining factor. An ESY decision must be based on all of the data available. Regression cannot be used as a single qualifying factor.

Eligibility criteria - (These will vary by state, please check with your DOE for the requirements in your state)

  • Regression and recoupment - does the team believe your child will lose critical skills?
  • Emergent skill is at a critical point? - the key word here is “breakthrough” point. Suppose you or the teacher believe your child is just about to gain a new skill or has recently acquired a new skill that needs to be sustained and reinforced. In that case, ESY is vital to continue that instruction.
  • Behavior concern - does your child struggle with behaviors that interfere with learning? Will a disruption in that behavior support risk an increase in the behaviors when your child returns in the fall
  • Nature and severity of disability - Students with moderate-severe ASD, PDD, IDD, severe multiple disabilities, or emotional disturbance may qualify simply because of the nature of their disability.
  • Curriculum weaknesses that require continuous work - failure to progress in a goal preventing your child from meaningful engagement and learning next year.
  • Parental inability or unwillingness to provide structure at home This might be a topic of discussion if your child requires ABA, Speech, OT, PT, or counseling services.
  • Rate of progress - if little or no progress is being made, this time can be used to help close that gap.

No cost to parents

Collecting Data to Support Your Claim for ESY

Use regression, recoupment, and predictive data - Data that supports the need for ESY includes student progress reports, evaluations, and evidence of regression during previous breaks. NOTE: a school can not require a student to fail before offering ESY. You also do not need to PROVE regression will happen, simply agree it is likely.

Data collection methods could include tracking your child’s progress through regular assessments, anecdotal records, and work samples. Then, use the collected data to demonstrate that your child is at risk of regression without ESY services and present it during IEP meetings.

Duration and level of support - Duration, and instruction of ESY services cannot be arbitrarily confined to the school’s schedule. Just like the IEP, it must provide for the child’s needs. It should also be noted that ESY is not just a summer program. It can include after-school instruction, weekend instruction, and instruction over breaks if necessary.

Curriculum and instruction - this needs to be targeted to the child’s needs; one-size-fits-all summer agendas do not fit the definition of ESY.

What to Expect at ESY

ESY programs typically have a more relaxed structure than the regular school year, focusing on individualized instruction and reinforcement of critical skills. Services available during ESY include specialized instruction, related services (such as occupational therapy), and social skills development.

Prepare your child for ESY by discussing the program, their goals, and its purpose and setting participation expectations. This should be a part of your routine and a continuation of school.


ESY is a vital service that helps IEP students maintain their progress and prevent regression during summer break. Understanding the eligibility criteria, data collection, and what to expect during ESY empowers parents to advocate for their child’s right to these essential services.

As a parent, it’s crucial to be proactive in seeking ESY services for your child if you believe they require it to be successful.

For additional help, consult your child’s IEP team or a special education advocate.