So you’re teaching Extended School Year (ESY), now what?

By Trish Geraghty

I love teaching Extended School Year services! It is a great opportunity to continue the amazing progress your students have made all year. However, ESY is not for all students, which I always found confusing as a teacher. Here is a quick reminder:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates ESY services as part of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). It’s crucial to remember that ESY services should be based on the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process and not a generic summer school curriculum. The decision to offer ESY services must be based on individual needs and not on a predetermined policy for all students with a particular disability. ESY is designed to address critical skills, critical point of instruction, and critical stage of development.

Aspect What ESY Is What ESY Is Not
Purpose Designed to prevent regression and facilitate maintenance of skills during extended breaks from school. Not a catch-up program for new learning or an extension of the regular curriculum.
Eligibility Based on individual needs determined through data and the IEP process. Not available to all students; not based on disability type but on specific criteria such as regression and recoupment.
Curriculum Focused on maintaining critical skills and goals outlined in the student’s IEP. Not a standard summer school program; does not generally introduce new content or follow the school curriculum.
Duration and Timing Customized based on the student’s needs; may vary in intensity and duration. Not necessarily a full-day or everyday program like regular school terms; varies significantly.
Staffing Typically involves specialized staff trained to address specific disabilities and educational needs. Not necessarily staffed by the regular school year teachers; staffing depends on the specific needs of the program.
Services Includes special education and related services like therapy, as outlined in the IEP. Not limited to academic instruction; can include physical, occupational, or speech therapy depending on the student’s needs.
Outcomes Aimed at preventing skill regression and loss of knowledge acquired during the regular school year. Not aimed at accelerating academic performance beyond the current capabilities or IEP goals of the student.
Assessment Evaluates the maintenance of skills and regression, focusing on IEP goals. Does not typically involve standardized testing used during the regular school year for progress in new content.
Setting Can be provided in various settings, including school, home, or community settings, depending on the IEP. Not confined to the traditional classroom setting; may be adapted to meet the student’s needs more flexibly.

Understanding ESY Services: What ESY is and what ESY is not.

Strategies for ESY Implementation

1. Focus on Critical Skills

Focusing on critical skills during ESY ensures that students maintain critical skills that impact their daily lives and future learning. Prioritizing skills that support independence, communication, and core academic competencies helps prevent regression in areas that significantly affect student progress.

2. Use of Technology

Incorporating technology into ESY programs can enhance engagement and support individualized learning. Assistive technology, educational software, and virtual learning platforms can be leveraged to provide interactive and personalized instruction, especially for students who benefit from alternative learning formats

3. Team Approach

Involvement between educators, therapists, and specialists, ensures that ESY services address the holistic needs of students. This approach allows for comprehensive support, integrating academic, social-emotional, and functional goals into a cohesive program. Check out Kit, which is designed for the entire IEP team. Kit is a collaborative software designed to simplify the workday for IEP teams. Kit provides an innovative guided approach to information sharing, data management, planning, assessments, and more.

4. Flexibility in Scheduling

Flexibility in scheduling ESY programs allows for customization based on student needs and family circumstances. Offering varied schedules, such as morning or afternoon sessions, can accommodate different preferences and ensure that students receive services at optimal times.

5. Data Collection

Collecting the right data during ESY programs is crucial to measuring effectiveness, guiding instruction, and justifying the services. Here are key types of data that should be collected in ESY settings:

  • Baseline Data

Before the start of the ESY program, collect baseline data on each student’s performance in areas targeted by the ESY services. This includes academic skills, behavior, social skills, and functional abilities, depending on the individual goals in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

  • Progress Monitoring Data

Regular progress monitoring is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the ESY program. This involves tracking the student’s performance and improvements in specific skills over the course of the ESY period. Tools such as curriculum-based measurements, criterion reference tests, or specific skill assessments can be used.

  • Behavioral Data

For students with behavioral goals, data on specific behaviors (e.g., frequency, intensity, duration, and context of behaviors) should be collected consistently. This helps in understanding patterns, triggers, and progress in managing or modifying behaviors.

  • Attendance and Engagement Data

Recording attendance and engagement levels provides insights into the program’s accessibility and the students’ commitment. Low attendance might indicate issues with transportation, scheduling, or student interest, which are essential to address for effective intervention.

  • Family Feedback

Collecting feedback from families can provide a different perspective on student progress and program effectiveness. It can also highlight areas of need that might not be as evident within the classroom or program setting.


  • Teacher and Staff Observations

Qualitative data from teachers and staff who interact with students daily are invaluable. These observations can cover academic progress, social interactions, behavioral changes, and general adaptability of the students within the ESY environment.

  • Social and Emotional Learning Data

For programs focusing on social and emotional skills, tools to measure competencies such as self-regulation, social interactions, and problem-solving are crucial. This might include observation checklists, self-report measures, or peer assessments.

  • Functional Skills Data

For students with goals centered on independence and daily living, tracking progress in functional skills is essential. This could include data on self-care, mobility, communication, and other life skills necessary for independence.

  • IEP Goal Achievement

At the end of the ESY program, it’s important to evaluate each student’s progress towards their IEP goals. This involves a detailed assessment of whether the goals were partially or fully met and the effectiveness of the strategies employed. Include as much information as possible here. You might not be the student’s future case manager and providing data with examples is helpful. 

  • Post-ESY Performance Data

After the conclusion of the ESY services, gathering data on the student’s performance at the start of the new school year can provide critical insights into the long-term impact of the ESY program. This helps in understanding the effectiveness of ESY in preventing regression and promoting retention of skills.

By prioritizing the individual needs of each student, collaborating with families and professionals, and continuously collecting data to determine effectiveness, you can ensure that ESY services fulfill the intended purpose: to support the holistic development and well-being of our students.

Trish Geraghty
Trish Geraghty, an accomplished educational leader with 20+ years of experience, excels in curriculum development, instructional design, and professional development. Her proven track record includes successful support for schools, districts, educators, and students. Committed to ensuring universal access to high-quality learning, Trish is a visionary advocate for inclusive education. Her innovative approach to curriculum development reflects a keen understanding of evolving standards. Trish's transformative influence extends beyond traditional boundaries, actively contributing to the broader advancement of education. A catalyst for positive change, she inspires excellence in others, shaping the future of education through unwavering commitment and visionary leadership.

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