Even though in Illinois it is the dead of winter with snow on the ground, this is the time to gather the data to advocate for Extended School Year ("ESY") services for the summer. Most school districts rigidly apply a regression-recoupment analysis to determine eligibility for ESY services. Regression-recoupment looks at whether a child will regress to a significant degree over the summer, and then whether the child will require significant periods of time to recoup the skills lost.
Typically projections of summer regression-recoupment are made based upon data gathered during winter break and spring break. The problem comes in when no one has gathered any data during these periods, and instead school staff rely on faulty memory of the regression and recoupment of the child. If parents gather specific data now they will be far ahead in the argument over ESY at the time of annual reviews in the coming months.
The larger issue is that legally in many states regression-recoupment is not the only test for determining ESY services. Many school districts only apply the regression-recoupment analysis even though legally this is not the only criteria for determining ESY and its scope. The Illinois Board of Education has issued policy [Download Illinois ESY policy.pdf] that detail criteria that are broader than simple regression-recoupment. The policy in Massachusetts mirrors Illinois and states the criteria well:
"In addition to significant regression and/or limited recoupment, courts have set forth other ESY criteria to be applied by a Team, as follows:
- the degree of the child's impairment
- the parents' ability to provide structure at home
- the child's rate of progress
- the child's specific behavior and/or physical problems
- the availability of alternative resources
- the child's ability to interact with non-disabled children
- the specific curricular areas in which the child needs continuing attention
- the vocational and transition needs of the child
- whether the service requested is "extraordinary" rather than usual in consideration of the child's condition.
Only when all factors are considered together by the child's Team can a determination be made as to how much service will be offered."
Even in winter parents can warm up their advocacy now for the summer by gathering good data, and marshaling arguments that apply their respective State's ESY policy. However, be prepared for your local school district to vigorously resist applying anything other than regression-recoupment.