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Best Practices for ESY Data Collection in Special Education

If you’re anything like me, as the school year winds down, I start planning for ESY data collection. For many students in special education, the Extended School Year program is crucial for maintaining progress and preventing regression. To ensure the success of your program, having reliable and efficient data collection methods is essential. In this post, we’ll explore two variations of ESY data collection that can be seamlessly integrated into your Extended School Year routines: traditional printable formats and modern digital tools. Whether you prefer the tangibility of paper or the convenience of technology, these strategies will help you track student progress, make informed decisions, and provide the best support possible over the summer months.

Creating an ESY Data Collection Packet

I learned early on that when preparing for the Extended School Year, creating a well-organized ESY data collection packet for each classroom can be a game changer. This packet should include all the necessary tools to efficiently track student progress with minimal disruption, ensuring that even with potentially unfamiliar staff and shortened days, your data collection remains meaningful.

Creating your ESY data collection packet:

  • Choose Priority Goals: Not all IEP goals will be relevant or feasible to target during the ESY period. Examples of non-functional goals for summer programs could include “putting on coat” (if it is warm all summer long in your area) or “opens lunchbox” (if your ESY program operates on a shortened day with no lunch period). Prioritize which goals to focus on, considering factors such as skill retention, critical needs, and the likelihood of regression.

  • Create Weekly Data Sheets: For each prioritized goal, include a weekly data sheet with designated spaces for one probe data point per goal. This streamlined approach not only makes data collection more manageable but also ensures consistency and clarity. At the end of the summer, you can average the total data points per goal to calculate a percentage success to reflect progress (vital if you are completing progress reports for this time period).

  • Include Probe Data Collection: By focusing on one probe data point per goal each week, you can reduce the burden on staff and ensure that the data collected is both high-quality and manageable. This approach also allows more time for meaningful interactions and summer themed instructional activities. I typically instruct staff to complete their data collection on Mondays. That way if students or staff are absent early in the week, you have additional days left to catch up on any data points needed.

Digital Solutions for ESY Data Collection

For ESY programs, utilizing digital resources can streamline the data collection process, allowing for daily tracking and immediate analysis. When I use digital tools for ESY data collection, I focus on one probe data point per goal each day that culminates in a weekly average score. I find Google Sheets™ to be the most useful platform to customize student data sheets.

Using a digital ESY data collection system:

  • Enter Daily Probe Data: This approach is useful for students for whom you want to monitor growth using more than one data point per week (as in the printable packet option). This Google Sheet™ template allows you to create a separate tab with tracker for each priority IEP goal per student.

  • View Weekly Averages: This pre-made template allows you to view a weekly average score for each goal. For example, if your student was successful in the probe data collection opportunity 3 days of the week, but unsuccessful on 2 days, the weekly average would reflect a score of 60% success.

  • Analyze Graphs: This approach also enables you to view a visual representation of student progress. With weekly average scores plotted, the graph offers a clear, easy-to-understand view of how students are progressing toward their goals.

Implementation Tips for ESY Data Collection

  • Consistency is Key: Ensure that data is entered consistently each day. Set aside dedicated times for data entry to maintain routine and accuracy. Consider setting a timer in your phone or classroom computer so that you do not miss this time period each day or week.

  • Training Staff: Provide comprehensive training for any staff members who will be using either the printable ESY data collection packet or the digital data collection tool. Personally I find that assigning only 1-2 staff (the head teacher and perhaps one trusted paraprofessional) to collect data during ESY is sufficient, rather than trying to train a classroom full of staff who are potentially new to the program or the individual students.

  • Review and Adapt: Regularly review the collected data and graphs to assess student progress. Use this information to make informed adjustments to instructional strategies and goals as needed. If, for example, after the first 2 weeks of ESY, you realize that one student has not progressed at all toward their goals, consider revising the prompt level, materials, or structure of the teaching program.


Effective ESY data collection is crucial for maintaining student progress and ensuring successful outcomes during the summer months. Whether you choose to implement a traditional paper-based packet system or embrace digital data collection tools, the key is to prioritize simplicity, consistency, and adaptability. By focusing on one probe data point per goal and making use of weekly averages, you can streamline the process and gain valuable insights into student performance. Remember, the goal is to make data collection manageable and meaningful, allowing you to provide the best possible support to your students over the summer.


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