Planning for Extended School Year (ESY) During a Pandemic

By Amy Howie, Senior Associate

The past several months brought about unprecedented shifts in how schools are providing instruction to complete the 2019–2020 school year. As the year ends and health and safety concerns related to providing face to face instruction remain uncertain, special education directors are facing news challenges in planning ESY. Some districts are planning virtual ESY while other districts are delaying the start of ESY in hope that a “normal” session can be held in late summer prior to school opening.

Despite everyone’s best efforts to adapt instruction and services, the reality is many students with disabilities will likely have some loss of learning and some may be tempted to see ESY as a remedy. As highlighted in the recent April 17th Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) webinar, regression over the summer was one of the reasons ESY was added to IDEA and is present in many state definitions. ESY, however, was not designed to resolve issues created by a pandemic or to serve as a means to accelerate learning. When planning ESY for your district, it is critical to focus on its intended purpose and recognize that there need to be larger, separate plans for assessing loss of learning and providing intervention for all students in the fall.

ESY Planning Considerations

Use the following questions as a guide for planning ESY this summer. These questions will keep you grounded in the requirements of ESY and provide an informal assessment of a district’s current progress, needs, and instructional approach.

  1. District ESY Operations. Collaborate with district administrators and other stakeholders to develop the overall plan and logistics of ESY.
    • Who is responsible for the planning and oversight of ESY?
    • What days and times will ESY be provided and through what means (all virtual instruction, blended, etc.)? How many weeks?
    • What will the format of ESY be? Individual, small group, whole group? How can teachers manage these formats virtually?
    • Who will deliver ESY? Will your district require supplemental services such as virtual tutoring or telehealth provider?
    • How will related services be embedded into ESY? How will telehealth be used?
    • How will paraprofessionals be utilized?
    • What is reasonable for families?
  1. IEP Compliance. Ensure that compliance is met by correctly identifying who should receive ESY and documenting progress monitoring data.
    • Who should receive ESY according to their Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
    • Are any changes for students not previously eligible for ESY due to COVID-19? How is this determined and documented?
    • How will progress monitoring data be collected and reported?
    • How will modifications/accommodations be provided and monitored?
    • How will behavior plans be implemented?
    • How will related and transition services be provided and monitored?
  1. Communication with Parents. Plan and implement a communication plan to provide accurate and timely information to families.
    • How will you communicate the format, frequency, and purpose of ESY?
    • How will you receive feedback on ESY?
    • How will you provide training to parents on how to use of technology (web conferencing, etc.) and strategies for supporting students?
    • How will you facilitate ongoing communication? Will you hold weekly check-ins, informal coffee hour, etc.? What written communication will you provide?
    • What information, such as student work or demonstrated progress on IEP goals, will parents be expected to provide to teachers and service providers if instruction is conducted at home?
  1. Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. Review curriculum and create a plan for ESY.
    • Have you created an ESY Scope and Sequence?
    • What curriculum will be utilized for ESY?
    • Have you developed lesson plans with considerations for each student or groups of students that are standard aligned with modifications and high engagement activities?
    • Have you designed lessons that include whole group, small group, and individual considerations? How can these be adapted to a virtual format?
    • Do your lessons include varied strategies for providing information (teacher, parent), expressing information, and staying engaged (student)?
    • Do lesson plans include related services, transition services, Augmentative and Alternative Communication/Assistive Technology (AAC/AT) needs, behavior supports, etc.?
    • What alternatives can you offer if the student is not meeting with success in a virtual format?
    • Do lesson plans include formative assessment and progress monitoring?
  1. System of Instruction for Each Student. Design individualized instructional supports for each student based on the IEP.
    • Have teachers created weekly/daily schedules and picture schedules?
    • What is the process for providing/receiving materials and curriculum?
    • What technology will be utilized?
    • What are the (AAC/AT) needs of each student? How are these noted in lesson plans? What behavior supports are required to deliver instruction?

How PCG Can Help During an Unprecedented Time

COVID-19 is creating significant challenges for school districts across the country. PCG is always looking for ways to support districts and students.

Special Education Research, Action Planning, and Facilitation. Subject matter experts and consultants can research best practices, inventory resources, guide action planning, and facilitate the development of digital learning instructional continuity plans to help you address emergency situations that result in interrupted education for students with disabilities. Additionally, we can help you rethink your ESY program and approach in light of the current situation.

Online Special Education Paraprofessional Courses. Whether just getting started or a seasoned paraprofessional, these courses provide practical, universal tips and strategies that can be immediately implemented. Each three-hour course is self-paced and develops knowledge and skills to better understand role and responsibilities, improve communication and collaboration, and maintain high expectations by using the right tools to support students.

Virtual Instruction Toolkit. This toolkit contains a library of tools and resources to help educators establish Online and Distance Learning instructional models based on best practices

Virtual Staffing Solutions. Provides trained professionals to augment staffing needs and work directly to support your efforts to deliver continuity of instruction and services during this emergency period using your available digital learning solutions or by providing PCG’s EDPlan™ suite of tools.

About the Author

Amy Howie is a Senior Associate at PCG and provides thought leadership and consulting services in the areas of special education and leadership to states and districts across the country. Amy serves as the advisor to Indiana’s Project SUCCESS, a resource center developed and managed by PCG in collaboration with the Indiana Department of Education to support higher academic achievement for students with disabilities. Amy also leads a variety of professional development engagements with district and state partners to build leadership capacity and improve student outcomes.

Prior to coming to PCG, Amy served as a building administrator for six years where she led efforts to improve instruction and increase achievement by developing and supporting special education programming; Response to Intervention initiatives; and Positive Behavioral Support programs. Amy was also a special education teacher for 10 years, including experience at elementary and secondary levels and covering a range of disability areas and instructional settings.

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