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Understanding Extended School Year Option on the Individual Education Plan Document

Updated on November 11, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

From the service page of an electronic IEP page.
From the service page of an electronic IEP page. | Source

It takes up a small place in most Individual Education Plan (IEP) formats. Still, if confirmed by a check or written “Yes”, students with learning disabilities will have summer school.

Extended School Year – or better known as ESY – is a special education service that can expand the school year for students who qualify. Often, many districts will combine this service with summer school while others may set up independent or home-school studies. In cases for students with severe developmental or intellectual disorder, it’s simply business as usual. They continue with their curriculum or programs.

Used correctly, ESY can be an effective tool. It is often applied to students designated as “moderate to severe”. However, upon parent request or insistence of the student’s case-carrier, those with the mild/moderate designation can be made eligible for this service.

Originally from
Originally from

Reason for ESY

There are many reasons students will need ESY. For those enrolled in Basic Skills, Life Skills or Community Basic Instruction (CBI) in California, this is merely a way to continue their education beyond June.

Students in these programs are developmentally or intellectually disabled. Despite their ages they are learning at levels between pre-kindergarten and the first grade level (despite being enrolled in high school). They tend to have short-term memories and can easily regress educationally. Also, many of these students are learning life skills such shopping in a grocery store, catching the bus, or learning to write letters.

For those designated as mild/moderate, ESY can help them with memory and repetition of skills. Many students who fall under this category have learning disabilities that may affect their memories. For student with ED (emotional disorder) they may need reinforcement of skills meant to keep them calm or functional in a regular classroom.

Another reason for ESY is to help those who may need more time to complete assignments. In many cases, special education students with mild/moderate symptoms will be placed in regular education courses where they will need this accommodation. Other students who came from course formally known as Special Day Class (SDC) will need ESY to complete given assignments. SDC students usually attend self-contained classes and will only be in mainstreamed in general education courses for less than 50% of the regular school day.

Often, the students will continue assignments that they had started in their courses during the regular school year. They need to finish these assignments in order to pass the class.

Finally, another reason is simple: Some students need to make up courses they failed. In a sense, this part of ESY operates in a similar fashion as traditional summer school program.

What is needed to Qualify for ESY?

Considering that ESY is a special education program, students who are designated for special education services will be eligible for this program. In the past, ESY had been given to lower-functioning students; however, many districts have opened it up to those labeled as Resource Special Program students (RSP). RSP students are often mainstreamed or are enrolled in special education courses for more than 50% of their day.

In the past, enrolling an RSP student in an ESY program was a bit tricky. The student, parent, case-carrier, administrator overlooking special education, and the rest of an IEP team had to agree to temporarily designate the student to SDC status for the summer.

Recently, massive budget cuts in education in the state of California have led to drastic changes in special education. Many districts have done away the RSP/SDC and Basic Skill designation and replaced them with Special Academic Instruction (SAI) and Community Based Instruction (CBI), respectively.

While students in CBI program will automatically be enrolled in an ESY program, SAI students will be made eligible on the basis of credits they need to make up or by the courses they failed during the regular school year. This determination is made by the case-carriers.

Also, ESY in California is possibly the only form of summer school offered in various districts. Again, budget cuts have reduced what districts can offer during the summer. As of this writing, the author’s district has ESY at one school site in five temporary bungalows.

ESY is often a matter of an agreement made during an IEP meeting. While there are factors that must be met before the student is eligible for it, the decision can be as simple as a mere check in box or a written “yes” in the document.

This program has benefits for many students with special needs. It is a continuation of lessons and life skills for many, as well as a chance to earn credits toward graduation

An Update

For nearly six years, the only form of summer school in my district was ESY. Summer school for regular education students was relegated to private schools or public school programs outside the district. This wasn't cheap.

Things have improved. The summer of 2014 was the first time summer school was offered to all students throughout the district. In part, more money entered the school system.Also, recent administrative changes (such as the firing of our superintendent) freed up the school district to offer this service.

ESY is still being offered. This time, it's for students who've had their ESY section checked with a "Yes" or students with the Community Based Instruction (CBI) and Adult Transition.


© 2014 Dean Traylor


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