Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has introduced legislation that would allow parents of a child with a disability to access more information about their educational options to ensure that those with a disability don’t miss out on the opportunity to achieve a high school or college degree. The legislation, the Empowering Parents & Students Through Information Act, would seek to clear up often confusing state guidelines and empower parents to make more informed decisions about which education track is best for their child with a disability.
“Deciding which educational track to place a child with a disability on is one of the most consequential decisions a parent can make,” Senator Casey said. “As parents make these decisions it’s critical that they have all the information necessary to make the best choice for their child. Those with disabilities have a lot of ability. We owe it to these children to do everything possible to ensure they can achieve their dreams and live full lives.”
The Empowering Parents & Students Through Information Act helps ensure that America’s six million students with disabilities and their families have access to necessary information to make informed decisions on their child’s education and future opportunities for pursuing college and career goals. The bill is also cosponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) who is the leading Democrat on the Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
- Clarifies that States Must Establish Clear Guidelines to Help Educators & Parents Make Informed Decisions About the Appropriateness of Students Being Placed on an Alternate Standard and Taking an Alternate Assessment Based on Alternate Achievement Standards (AA-AAS): In many states, students with disabilities who are placed on an alternate standard and take an AA-AAS are taken off-track from receiving a regular high-school diploma because they are unable to meet graduation requirements. This legislation ensures that States provide the necessary guidelines for parents and educators to help in their decision making for determining when it is appropriate for a child to take an AA-AAS.
- Empowers Parents as Partners: This legislation ensures that parents are actively involved in the decision for their child to be assessed using an AA-AAS. The legislation makes clear that parents must give informed consent and be made fully aware of the impact on the child of taking the AA-AAS and on their child’s eligibility to receive a regular high school diploma.
- Holds High Expectations for Students: This legislation promotes greater access to the general curriculum and reinforces the use of accommodations to increase the number of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who participate in and are assessed on grade-level academic instruction.
- Protects Against the Misuse of Assessments: This legislation helps ensure that the AA-AAS is appropriately given only to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, as decided by parents and educators on an annual, individual and subject-by-subject basis. Further, this legislation prevents a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) from being used for accountability purposes.
- Provides Public Transparency: This legislation allows parents, educators, policymakers and stakeholders to know how many students were assessed using the AA-AAS on State and local educational agency (LEA) report cards, data that is already provided by schools and districts to the State but not readily available on state/LEA report cards.
This legislation is supported by: ACCSES, Association for People Supporting Employment First, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Autism National Committee, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Decoding Dyslexia – Pennsylvania, Easter Seals, National Disability Rights Network, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Down Syndrome Society, TASH, The Arc, The National Center on Learning Disabilities, Tourette Syndrome Association
“The National Center for Learning Disabilities commends Senator Casey for his leadership on behalf of the one in five children with learning and attention issues, and their families. The Empowering Parents and Students Through Information Act will enable families to make informed decisions on behalf of their child. Importantly, this legislation supports collaboration between educators and families as they make decisions that will impact future college and career plans for students with disabilities,” stated James H. Wendorf, Executive Director, National Center for Learning Disabilities.
“Senator Casey’s Empowering Parents and Students Through Information Act puts the decision-making about student’s education where it should be—in the hands of parents and families. By making sure parents have all the information about how their children with the most significant disabilities should be taught and assessed, Senator Casey is keeping high expectations for students with disabilities and making sure parents are in control of their children’s education.”
-Andy Imparato, Executive Director – Association of University Centers on Disabilities
In support of the Empowering Parents and Students Through Information Act, Denise Marshall, Executive Director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, stated: "This bill when enacted will make a distinct difference in assuring parents have the information they need and if necessary can give consent to the important decision to have their child take an alternate assessment on alternate achievement standards. This decision can carry high stakes in many states such as limiting access to a regular diploma. COPAA appreciates Senator Casey's commitment to assuring such decisions are fully discussed and that children continue to have every opportunity to learn next to their peers in the regular classroom."
“This legislation will help countless students with intellectual and developmental disabilities by ensuring that parents are active, informed participants in critical decisions about the academic assessments that can determine their child’s future.”
-Peter V. Berns, CEO – The Arc
“The Empowering Parents & Students Through Information Act is a victory for parents in Pennsylvania and across the nation. Senator Casey has listened to parents of children with disabilities and shares our belief that all students must be given the opportunity to succeed in school. This legislation rightly places parents at the center of decision-making for their child,” stated Rosette Roth, mother of two children with dyslexia, ages 12 and 14, and co-founder of Decoding Dyslexia - Pennsylvania.