As the academic year moves along, many students are beginning to think ahead to summer and to a break from school. Even though the weeks of vacation can mean that the first part of the following year will include a review of skills that got a bit rusty over the summer, this isn't a major issue for the vast majority of students.
For some students who are receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) however, the summer break may pose a significant challenge to fragile educational progress. For these students, an extended school year (ESY) may be the solution. The IDEA is silent about extended school year services, but the subject is dealt with in the regulations that implement the law. These are quite general, and simply note that such services should be provided if the child's IEP team determines that they are necessary for that student to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The regulations further note that such services should not be limited to any particular classification of disability or to any type of services.
Our colleagues at the Wrightslaw website have recently addressed this issue and note that the criteria for an extended school year vary from state to state. Here in New York, for example, extended school year services, sometimes called 12 month services, can be provided by an IEP team only "to prevent substantial regression. Substantial regression would be indicated by a student’s inability to maintain developmental levels due to a loss of skill, set of skill competencies or knowledge during the months of July and August." Other states have different standards, so the first step to deciding whether to seek an extended school year should be to check the specific laws and rules that apply to your state. For most students with learning difficulties, an extended school year is neither necessary nor obtainable from the public school system. This doesn't mean that students can't work on their academic skills in summer school programs, at camp, or otherwise -- just that such educational services will not be formally provided and paid for by the public school district.