I am a former special education teacher, now inclusion specialist, and I have had this question that has been sitting in the back of my mind and I would really love your opinion about it.
Is ESY (Extended
My first response, no. But let's break this down a little bit more.
ESY is specifically for students with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). You can read more about IEP's and how to make them inclusive here. As a teacher, it was described to me as a program that was designed to continue providing services for students with disabilities so they can continue to work on IEP goals they haven't accomplished yet.
It sounds good, right? Summer can be a long break from a schedule. Especially for students who rely on said schedule. Summer can be frustrating and confusing and without the consistent speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or any other therapy your student might be receiving, we can see a decline.
Some parents struggle to even obtain access to ESY. This mom wrote a beautiful post you can read here about how she had to advocate for her child to be considered for ESY (which is ridiculous that she even had to fight so hard but as we know, this is not uncommon).
My first year teaching, my classroom was considered an extensive support needs (ESN) class, AKA moderate-severe, and when I asked about ESY the school psychologist said, because I am an ESN class, all of my students are automatically enrolled in ESY if the parents want the services.
I had so many questions. If a student was in the general education classroom setting with an IEP, do they go to ESY? What happens to their services? If a student is in a mild-moderate classroom, do they get the opportunity to go to ESY? What about students who want to go to summer school with their peers, can they still recieve their services in their IEP?
But then I stopped and thought about students without disabilities. How do their families decide if they attend summer school? Online it told me that if a child isn't performing well in a core class, they can be enrolled in summer school. And there was a lot of discussion that summer school is considered a punishment.
If you ever talk to me in person about the education system, I would tell you that the system is failing. It needs to be revamped. It doesn't take everyone into consideration and it needs to be updated to what our community needs today to be successful. But I digress. Let's focus on summer school and ESY for now.
In MY perfect world, summer school would be offered to everyone. Each school would have a program for their students. If needed, schools can be combined. As a teacher, districts begged people to teach summer school. I recognize that there are more students and not enough staff who want to work the extra hours. But ESY was a nightmare for me personally. I didn't want to be on a school site with a bunch of students being excluded from the rest of their peers. I also loved to travel and like do anything but work.
For me personally, I did not like ESY because it was all of the students with disabilities put onto one campus. I felt extremely excluded. At least during the school year, we were having recess with our friends and practicing inclusion. ESY had us alone.
Imagine every student with a "significant" disability to be put on one campus, understaffed, with a different schedule and school site, with decreased service support minutes (it's a shorter day, I get that) and then expecting that to be helpful for them.
The whole idea of ESY is that the student is getting ongoing support for what they get during the school year, but everything is different. Usually the support providers are different too, which again, I understand, but how much success is actually happening in these segregated settings?
What if we had summer school all together? Pushed in services when possible? Be as close to our school sites if available? I guess this argument is why I don't like segregated classrooms either. When we have students with disabilities in their own setting all day, they don't learn about their community. They don't get to foster genuine relationships with their peers. And they get too used to a setting that overly accommodates to them (that is a whole other post for another day). I am already getting overwhelmed.
Now I am not a parent of a child with a disability, but if I were, I am not sure this is the route I would go. Or if I did, I would also make sure to sign them up for inclusive activities after school. I also understand that this is better than nothing, I guess? I would love to hear what you have to say about this.
Drop some comments below!
Inclusion starts with you and I just want to help.