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State issues guidance regarding Extended School Year services (ESY) for summer programming

posted May 22, 2020, 7:40 AM by Diane Willcutts   [ updated May 22, 2020, 9:04 AM ]
To cut to the chase, the state guidance does not tell us whether ESY will consist of in-person services or distance learning or some combination.  We just don't know.

So what does it tell us?  Not much more than we already knew, except. . . 

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) now has come up with a preferred name for services that will be needed to remediate skills lost due to school closure--"recovery services."  

 "Recovery services" in the CSDE guidance seems to mean almost the same thing as "compensatory services" described in the federal guidance, with one exception.  

Connecticut's "recovery services" seem to be deemed to remediate LOST skills only.  I.e., to bring students back to where they were when school buildings were closed.  This would make sense only if students were to simply maintain skills during this time.  However, since federal guidance says that FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education) is still in effect during school building closure, this means the child should have had the opportunity to make appropriate progress during this time.  So when considering compensatory/recovery services, we should be considering what appropriate progress the student should have been able to make--if it were not for school building closure--and then plan recovery services accordingly.  

This isn't about blaming the school district.  I know of a couple districts that offered every virtual service they possibly could during school closure--providing it to the greatest extent possible--but those children were simply not able to benefit from those services, maybe because they truly required in-person instruction and computer learning was not something they could access.  For those children, distance learning simply is not appropriate, even though it may have been all the district could safely offer.  The need for compensatory/recovery services should be based on the child's actual progress with the services the child was actually able to access, not based on whether the district offered the most that they could.  More information about compensatory services is in my blog, here.

It is odd that the CSDE guidance admonishes districts to consider ESY services apart from recovery services.   The guidance seems to be saying that considerations for ESY need to occur now, whereas recovery services will be determined later.  If that is what is meant, I don't agree with this.  If we already know that the student is going to require recovery services, why not have the PPT make decisions about starting those services now if that's possible?  

Whenever families are ready to discuss recovery services, I encourage families to bring this up at their children's PPTs, making requests for these services as soon as they can be safely implemented.  If the district refuses to discuss this at a PPT, perhaps citing CSDE guidance, I recommend asking that this refusal go on the Prior Written Notice page of the IEP (Page 3), so there is a paper trail that the district refused, in the event the family later needs to file for a due process hearing or a complaint.  Note that most families never need to do this, but it's always good to have matter-of-fact documentation of any important areas of agreement and disagreement.  "If it's not in writing, it never happened."

This CSDE guidance reiterates previous guidance that distance learning plans ("continued educational opportunity plans") are developed apart from the IEP process, which is a violation of IDEA and inconsistent with federal guidance.  There is no provision in IDEA that permits districts to develop educational programming for students with disabilities, distance or otherwise, apart from the PPT.  More detailed analysis of why the CSDE is wrong is here.

So here's hoping the next round of CSDE guidance includes more clarity and, dare I hope, consistency with state and federal law.  Bottom line:  including parents in decision-making results in better educational programs.  So let's do this right!