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Monday, May 23, 2011

School Bell: Extended School Year?

For those of you whose children struggle mightily in school... a thought.  Are you aware that unlike the graphic, many school systems are open for at least part of the summer for some select children?  Often called an 'extended year program' or something similar, it is designed to keep at-risk children from losing ground over the summer.  If your child seems to take over a month to get back in gear after summer vacation, or a week plus after a winter or spring break, this may be just what he or she needs.  It won't be like summer school. It is likely to be somewhere between 15-30 hours total.  Some schools spread it through the whole vacation. Some schools choose 4-5 weeks somewhere in the middle of the vacation and provide it then.  It varies from school to school and region to region.  All kids take a while to catch up.  But some take too long. For those the school system provides programming to bridge that long summer break.

The purpose of these programs is NOT to help your child catch up.  Sad. Also true. I wish there were programs available to help children catch up, but schools generally don't offer them, leaving parents to try to manage the cost of tutoring or coaching.  BUT most special education departments recognize that there are some children who take an unusually long time to recoup what is lost over a break.

IF you think this fits your child, how do you qualify?

1. Start NOW for next summer!

2. You have to establish the length of time it takes your child to regroup after a break.  This means they need to have some specific skill testing just before school ends.  Then they must be tested in the fall to see how much ground they lost over the summer.  Finally they have to be watched to see when they are back to their June skill level.

3. Contact your special education department [IN WRITING] to let them know your concerns.  Tell them you would like a snapshot test before school ends to use as a measuring tool in the fall. Explain your concern and that you know they cannot offer extended year programming unless the need is documented.  The purpose of your contacting them is to get the documentation started by establishing the June benchmark of their achievement.  [Note: Your child's teacher can be an ally if they noticed the struggles.]

4. Follow up. Follow Up. Be polite, but follow up in the fall.

Extended year programming is not for everyone, but if your child qualifies and it is available, go for it! It will leave plenty of time for summer fun, but may help the next school begin far more smoothly and successfully. Check it out. 

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