Lawmakers Look To Rein In Alternative Diplomas
A new proposal in Congress would ensure that parents of students with disabilities are provided more information before their child is taken off track for a regular diploma.
Under a bill introduced Tuesday in the U.S. Senate, states would be required to establish clear guidelines outlining which students with disabilities qualify for testing based on alternate academic standards. Who takes these modified exams is significant because doing so often disqualifies students from achieving at the level necessary for a traditional high school diploma.
Parents would also be required under the proposal to give informed consent before their child could take less rigorous exams and certify that they understand the alternate assessments may preclude their child from receiving a regular diploma.
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“Deciding which educational track to place a child with a disability on is one of the most consequential decisions a parent can make,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who introduced the legislation. “As parents make these decisions it’s critical that they have all the information necessary to make the best choice for their child.”
Casey said the bill would ensure that alternate assessments are only given to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Each child’s individualized education program team should annually consider on a subject-by-subject basis whether testing based on less rigorous standards is warranted, he said.
Additionally, the legislation would require states and school districts to be more transparent about how many of their students are tested using alternate assessments.
The plan comes as lawmakers in Washington are looking to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, the nation’s primary education law. A spokesman for Casey indicated that the senator is looking to have his proposal incorporated within the overhaul.
Casey’s bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee.