The debate over the extended school year program in the US is multifaceted, and the term extended school year itself can be defined in a number of different ways. However, all of the various extended school year (ESY) programs do provide education in excess of a standard 180 day academic year.
In terms of the legal arguments for an extended school year program, the issues of recoupment and regression have been the primary focus.
The 2 R’s: Regression and Recoupment
Regression is a loss of academic knowledge and schools that occurs over the summer break, while recoupment refers to reacquiring this lost knowledge. The idea of the ESY program is not new in the US, with 49 of the 50 states having some type of policy or statue that mandates these programs or allows individual school districts within the state to implement them as an option.
Special Needs, Special Programs
The extended school year program has been a hot topic in the field of special education as well, with some dramatically different programs emerging from different states and school districts. One example of an ESY program for special needs children involves 4 days of classes per week which run for 5 hours per day. There is less than 1 month of summer break per year in this type of program.
Special needs are just one of the various requirements used by ESY programs to determine eligibility for and delivery of the program. In general, proponents of ESY argue that these programs are necessary for any students who would otherwise experience a high level of regression and recoupment in a traditional school year program. On average, students regress by about 4% over the summer vacation but students with moderate to severe learning disorders experience a higher rate of regression and slower recoupment.
Alternative Schools and Options
Some alternative schools also offer comprehensive ESY programs for their students. Many programs offers students a choice of tracks which focus on their unique academic and social needs and offer flexibly structured learning experiences which take place both inside and outside of the classroom. These types of programs encourage each student to develop an independent education plan and provide them with unique options to help develop their skills and interests. An important focus of many extended school year programs is to help students develop social skills along with improved academic performance.
Some examples of the offerings provided through ESY programs include summer therapeutic activity programs, bridge to college programs, drama programs and social and community activities programs. ESY programs can be an excellent alternative for students who are having a difficult time excelling in a traditional school year program.