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Complete Text of the Anne Sullivan Macy Act of 2013

November 2012 Draft Prepared By:

Mark Richert, Esq.
Director, Public Policy
American Foundation for the Blind
(202) 469-6833
MRichert@afb.net

Anne Sullivan Macy Act of 2013

A BILL

To promote and ensure delivery of high quality special education and related services to students with visual disabilities through instructional methodologies meeting their unique learning needs; to enhance accountability for the provision of such services; to establish a national collaborative resource on visual disabilities and educational excellence to supplement the current availability of such services; to support the ongoing professional development of instructors of students with visual disabilities; to foster the proliferation of research supporting the development and evaluation of effective and innovative assessments and instructional methodologies; and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

Section 1. Short Title; Table of Contents.

(a) Short Title—This Act may be cited as the "Anne Sullivan Macy Act of 2013."

(b) Table of Contents—

Sec. 1. Short Title; Table of Contents.
Sec. 2. Findings and Purposes.

Title I.—Improving the Effectiveness of Special Education and Related Services for Students with Visual Disabilities.

Sec. 101. Identifying Students with Visual Disabilities.
Sec. 102. State Plans.
Sec. 103. Evaluations.
Sec. 104. Consideration of Special Factors.
Sec. 105. Monitoring.
Sec. 106. Continuum of Service Delivery Options.
Sec. 107. Technical Assistance for Parents and Educators of Students with Visual Disabilities.

Title II.—Anne Sullivan Macy Center on Visual Disability and Educational Excellence.

Sec. 201. Center Establishment and Mission.
Sec. 202. Administration, Eligibility, Governance, and Structure.
Sec. 203. Activities.
Sec. 204. Authorization of Appropriations and Carry-Over.
Sec. 205. Relationship to Other Programs and Activities.

Sec. 2. Findings and Purposes.

(a) Findings—The Congress of the United States finds the following:

  1. When renowned American author, Mark Twain, immortalized Helen Keller's beloved teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, with the moniker "the miracle worker," his words, though meant as well-deserved praise, reflect the misconception persisting even today that educating individuals with disabilities is a nearly insurmountable task requiring extraordinary feats performed by exceptionally gifted and saintly persons. To be sure, the work of teaching children with disabilities can and does occur when committed and qualified but everyday special educators are properly prepared and supported to practice their professions. However, the educational systems within which they act must also be held accountable for results.
  2. Research demonstrates that students with visual disabilities are among the highest performing students with disabilities in terms of academic achievement, and yet they are among the least employed, even after successful accomplishment of post-secondary academic objectives. Many factors contribute to this unacceptable inequity, including employer discrimination, low expectations of people with disabilities generally, and a lack of student preparation for the work world and full participation in society.
  3. It is clear that America's special education system needs to be improved if the most successful academic achievers are to leave school prepared to be independent and productive citizens who can participate fully in the American dream. Such improvements must better account for the distinct academic and related learning needs of students with visual disabilities who can only succeed both when visual-disabilities-specific skills are taught and when generally-needed skills are taught in a manner that addresses, rather than ignores, the unique ways in which students with visual disabilities learn.
  4. A principal way that students without visual disabilities acquire knowledge and skills is through incidental learning, the process of observing others and the environment that occurs naturally at home, at school and in community, and deficits in incidental learning leave students with visual disabilities behind in the acquisition of an array of skill areas. In addition to core academics such as reading, mathematics and science, students with visual disabilities must also receive instruction in the so-called expanded core curriculum, a comprehensive array of specialized instruction and services maximizing the capacity of students with visual disabilities to learn effectively and live both productively and independently. The expanded core curriculum includes instruction in communication and productivity (including braille instruction, and assistive technology proficiency inclusive of low vision devices); self-sufficiency and interaction (including orientation and mobility, self determination, sensory efficiency, socialization, recreation and fitness, and independent living skills); and age appropriate career education.
  5. Special education teachers, such as teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs), partner with related services personnel, such as orientation and mobility instructors, and general educators to provide students with disabilities individualized quality academic and related instruction to position students, to the maximum extent possible, for successful transition to post-school independent living, societal integration, and employment. To do their jobs well, TVIs and their colleagues in related services must be both initially properly trained and continually supported through readily available resources and continuing education to assist them in dealing with the constant evolution in instructional methods, the vast diversity of the population with which they work, enormous case loads, and the scarcity of time to devote necessary individualized attention to each student with visual disabilities. Both the need for an expanded variety of continuing education opportunities for TVIs and the need for preparation programs producing personnel who can serve the full diversity of needs within the population of students with visual disabilities have been well documented.
  6. Since the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students who are blind have been entitled to instruction in braille and use of braille unless the individualized education program (IEP) team makes an affirmative determination that such instruction is not appropriate for a given student. Nevertheless, it has been forcefully argued that few students today who should be receiving instruction in braille are indeed receiving it and that this lack of braille instruction contributes mightily to the inability of graduates with visual disabilities to participate fully in the workforce. Since the U.S. Department of Education does not require state and local educational agencies to fully and accurately account for their legal obligations to provide braille instruction to each student for whom such instruction is appropriate, it is not possible to confirm systemically whether such agencies are in compliance with current law. Given that students with visual disabilities require more support than they are currently receiving nationally to acquire services and skills comprising the expanded core curriculum, and given that provision of currently required instruction for such students, such as braille, cannot be adequately assured, IDEA must be strengthened and supplemented to ensure that students with visual disabilities truly receive a free and appropriate public education.
  7. A prerequisite to better meeting these demonstrable needs is every State and local educational agency's identification and proper evaluation of each student who experiences visual disability, regardless of whether such student may have other, even potentially more significant, disabilities. While IDEA does not mandate that state and local educational agencies classify students into specific disability categories, the widespread use of IDEA's disability categories has led to a sizable undercount of students with visual disabilities and, consequently, a lack of recognition of the extent of the systemic need for the delivery of appropriate instructional services provided by personnel initially trained and continually supported to meet such students' unique educational needs. Indeed, while research supports the contention that more than 100,000 students nationally who have visual disabilities require special education and related services, the Department of Education routinely reports the size of this population at one third such census. This occurs in large measure because students who are blind or visually impaired who also have additional disabilities are frequently formally classified by State and local educational agencies as having multiple disabilities. Consequently, such students' visual disabilities are not fully acknowledged either in terms of educational agency recognized need for personnel trained to serve such students, or in terms of an individual student's need for the services of such personnel.
  8. It is critical that state and local educational agencies be better prepared to meet these largely unmet needs. To reach this goal, TVIs and their colleagues in related services must be better supported to provide the full array of specialized instruction and services required by students with visual disabilities. Proper assessment of the unique needs of students with visual disabilities, along with proper deployment of specialized instruction and interventions, must keep pace with the most current educational theories and practices and be based on the best available evidence. Significantly greater accountability for results for students with visual disabilities, including those with additional disabilities, must be built into America's special education system if students with visual disabilities are to succeed as they can and must. And it is imperative that all students with visual disabilities, regardless of disability category, are identified and their learning needs fully accounted for.
  9. While examples of contexts do exist around the country, from specialized schools to neighborhood schools, demonstrating successful provision of a full range of services and instruction meeting the unique needs of students with visual disabilities, the services and instruction afforded by such exemplary programs are far from nationally consistent and must be recognized and modeled. To replicate and build on these successes, a national resource is needed to supplement the work of state and local educational agencies through student enrichment activities, to support TVIs and related services personnel through state-of-the-art continuing education opportunities, and to spur the further advancement of instructional services for students with visual disabilities through scientific research and evidence-based best practices.
  10. While these clarifications and enhancements must be made, it is vital that existing high quality resources be preserved and leveraged so that students with visual disabilities do not fall farther behind. Specialized schools for children who are blind must be expected to perform but must not fall victim to mere State budget expediency. Both special schools and center-based programs serving children with visual disabilities should be tapped for the expert personnel and services such resources can offer, and IDEA's worthy policy objective to ensure the full integration of children with disabilities ought not be allowed to frustrate the delivery of all appropriate services to children with unique needs.

(b) Purposes.—The purposes of this Act are:

  1. To better ensure delivery of high quality special education and related services to students with visual disabilities through specialized instructional services and methodologies meeting their unique learning needs.
  2. To enhance accountability for the provision of such services.
  3. To establish a national collaborative resource on visual disabilities and educational excellence to supplement the current national availability of such services.
  4. To support the ongoing professional development of teachers of students with visual impairments and related services personnel specifically trained to work with such students.
  5. To foster the proliferation of research supporting the development and evaluation of effective and innovative assessments and instructional methodologies consonant with the unique learning needs of students with visual disabilities.

Title I.—Improving the Effectiveness of Special Education and Related Services for Students with Visual Disabilities.

[all amendments are to IDEA]

Sec. 101. Identifying Students with Visual Disabilities.—

(a) Serving All Children with Visual Disabilities Regardless of Classification—Section 612(a)(3) is amended at the end by adding the following new subparagraph:

(C) Serving Children with Visual Disabilities—When a state classifies children by disability, the State, in complying with subsection (a), identifies, locates and evaluates children with visual disabilities who are, or may be, classified in a disability category other than blindness and provides (without prejudice to such classification) special education and related services to such children, including such services determined appropriate based on proper evaluation as would be provided to children classified in the State as having blindness."

(b) Data Collection and Reporting—Section 618 is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

"(e) Accounting for Visual disabilities—In addition to the data collection and reporting requirements of subsections (a) through (d) of this section and subject to such provisions, the State and the Secretary of the Interior shall, with respect to children classified in a disability category other than blindness, include the number and percentage of such children in each disability category who are also blind or otherwise have visual disabilities."

Sec. 102. State Plans.—Section 612 is amended at the end by adding the following new subsection:

"(g) Addendum Concerning Students with Visual Disabilities.—

  1. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (c), a State shall not be deemed in compliance with this section unless, within two years of the date of enactment of the Anne Sullivan Macy Act of 2013, the State files with the Secretary a written addendum to the plan required by this section describing how the State ensures that:

    A. children with visual disabilities (regardless of the State's use of disability categories or the extent to which children with visual disabilities may be classified in disability categories other than blindness) are evaluated for such children's need for instruction and services meeting their unique academic and related learning needs, including instruction which may be needed by children without disabilities or with other disabilities but which must be specifically designed, modified, or delivered to meet the unique academic and related learning needs of children with visual disabilities;

    B. there is sufficient availability of personnel within the State qualified to provide the instruction described in subparagraph (A) to all children within the State requiring such instruction; and

    C. all children with visual disabilities within the State who need special education and related services, whether or not such children have other disabilities, receive such instruction and are not being served solely in accordance with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
  2. In preparing the addendum described in paragraph (1), the State shall:
    A. specifically address how the State meets the needs of students with visual disabilities for instruction in communication and productivity (including braille instruction and assistive technology proficiency); self-sufficiency and interaction (including orientation and mobility, self- determination, sensory efficiency, socialization, recreation and fitness, and independent living skills); and age appropriate career education;

    B. describe both the methods to be used within the State to properly evaluate students' need for low vision devices and the process by which such devices will be provided to each student for whom such devices are determined appropriate by the IEP team; and

    C. consult with individuals and organizations with expertise in the education of children with visual disabilities, including parents, consumer and advocacy organizations, and teachers of students with visual impairments and others the State may identify."

Sec. 103. Evaluations. Section 614(b) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

"(7) Visual Disabilities—

A. In General—In conducting the assessments prescribed in paragraph (3)(B), determination of the need of children with visual disabilities (including children who may have additional disabilities) for special education and related services shall include evaluation of such children's unique learning needs, including needs for instruction which may be needed by students without disabilities or with other disabilities but which must be specifically designed, modified, or delivered to meet the unique learning needs of students with visual disabilities.

B. Content of Evaluations—The evaluations described in subparagraph (A) shall, at a minimum, include evaluations assessing the need for instruction in assistive technology proficiency (inclusive of low vision devices), self sufficiency and interaction (including orientation and mobility, self determination, sensory efficiency, socialization, recreation and fitness, and independent living skills), and age-appropriate career education."

Sec. 104. Consideration of Special Factors.

Section 614(d)(3)(B)(iii) is amended to read as follows:

"(iii) in the case of a child who is blind or visually impaired, provide for:

I. instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless the IEP Team determines, after an evaluation of the child's reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media (including an evaluation of the child's future needs for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille), that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate for the child; and

II. instruction meeting the child's unique learning needs, including instruction which may be needed by students without disabilities or with other disabilities but which must be specifically designed, modified, or delivered to meet the unique learning needs of students with visual disabilities. Such instruction includes assistive technology proficiency (inclusive of low vision devices); self sufficiency and interaction (including orientation and mobility, self determination, sensory efficiency, socialization, recreation and fitness, and independent living skills); and age appropriate career education;"

Sec. 105. Monitoring.—

Section 616(a) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

"(5) Enhanced Monitoring of Services to Students with Visual Disabilities—In carrying out the responsibilities of this subsection, the Secretary shall specifically monitor compliance with sections 612(a)(3), 612(a)(5), 614(b), and 614(d)(3)(B)(iii) as such sections are amended by the Anne Sullivan Macy Act of 2013 and shall regularly report findings to the Congress of the United States."

Sec. 106. Continuum of Service Delivery Options.—

Section 612(a)(5) is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:

"(C) Continuum of Alternative Placements—The State shall ensure that a full continuum of alternative placements is available to meet the needs of children with disabilities for special education and related services. Such continuum must include instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions, and must make provision for supplementary services (such as resource room or itinerant instruction) to be provided in conjunction with regular class placement."

Sec. 107. Technical Assistance for Parents and Educators of Students with Visual Disabilities.—

Section 616 is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

"(j) Maintaining Current Policy Guidance for Parents and Educators of Students with Visual Disabilities—The Secretary shall ensure that within one year of the date of enactment of the Anne Sullivan Macy Act of 2013 (and periodically thereafter but at least within five-year intervals), policy guidance concerning the provision of special education and related services to students with visual disabilities (last published in the Federal Register on June 8, 2000) is reviewed and updated (with particular attention to explanation of relevant amendments to this Act or to its implementing regulations) and is published in the Federal Register.

Title II.—Anne Sullivan Macy Center on Visual Disability and Educational Excellence.

Sec. 201. Center Establishment and Mission.

a. Establishment—There is established within the Department of Education a national program named the Anne Sullivan Macy Center on Visual Disability and Educational Excellence which shall carry out the activities described in section 203 in furtherance of the mission described in subsection (b).

b. Mission—The mission of the program established in subsection (a) is to improve the capacity of students with visual disabilities receiving special education and related services to learn effectively and live both productively and independently through:

1. development and dissemination of curricula, courses, materials, and methods supporting the continuing education of personnel qualified under state law to serve as teachers of students with visual impairments and related services personnel serving such children;

2. support for the establishment of new programs within institutions of higher education to prepare teachers of students with visual impairments to serve students with visual disabilities who also have additional disabilities;

3. model local, regional, and national enrichment projects open to students with visual disabilities intended to supplement state and local educational agency provision of specialized instruction and services meeting such students' unique learning needs; and

4. research identifying, developing, and evaluating valid assessments and effective interventions measuring and addressing the unique needs of students with visual disabilities, including need for instruction and services which may be needed by students without disabilities or with other disabilities but which must be specifically designed, modified, or delivered to meet the unique learning needs of students with visual disabilities. At a minimum, such instruction and services include communication and productivity (including braille instruction, and assistive technology proficiency inclusive of low vision devices); self-sufficiency and interaction (including orientation and mobility, self-determination, sensory efficiency, socialization, recreation and fitness, and independent living skills); and age appropriate career education.

Sec. 202. Administration, Eligibility, Governance, and Structure.

a. Administration—To carry out the provisions of section 201, the Secretary of Education shall enter into a contract or cooperative agreement (of no less than five years in duration) with a consortium of entities described in subsection (b) which shall, with oversight by the Secretary, have primary responsibility for administering the program described in this Title. The Secretary shall have ongoing authority to enter into such contracts or cooperative agreements.

b. Eligibility—The consortium of entities described in subsection (a) shall include:

  1. at least two national nonprofit organizations with demonstrated experience publishing materials, offering direct professional development opportunities, and disseminating course curricula supporting the preparation or continuing education of teachers of students with visual impairments and related services personnel;
  2. at least one national nonprofit organization (which may include a special school serving students who are blind) with demonstrated experience directly serving students with visual disabilities (including students who may or may not have additional disabilities) through in-person instruction and services meeting their unique learning needs;
  3. at least one institution of higher education that:

    A. has consistently maintained for at least ten years a program of instruction preparing teachers of students with visual impairments or orientation and mobility instructors;

    B. offers a program of doctoral study in special education; and

    C. maintains a Carnegie Classification as a Doctoral Research University; and

  4. any other entity or entities with which the entities described in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) choose to partner (with approval of the Secretary).

c. Governance—As part of the Secretary's oversight responsibilities, the Secretary shall appoint an advisory board (of no more than 12 individual members who do not have a concurrent fiscal, fiduciary, or employment relationship with any of the entities comprising the consortium described in subsection (b)) which shall advise the Secretary and such consortium of entities with respect to strategic planning and annual program performance. The advisory board shall be comprised of individuals with personal or professional experience with the needs of students with visual disabilities and shall include parents of students with visual disabilities, administrators of special education programs, and representatives of national organizations of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The Secretary is authorized to compensate the members of the advisory board for reasonable expenses incurred for travel related to in-person meetings of the advisory board which shall occur no more frequently than three times within a calendar year. The provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act shall not apply to meetings or other activities of the advisory board. Prior to the appointment of any individual to the advisory board, the Secretary shall consult with such consortium of entities which may also nominate individuals to the Secretary for advisory board membership.

d. Structure—The Secretary, as part of the contract or cooperative agreement described in subsection (a), shall ensure that such contract or cooperative agreement specifies any and all necessary fiscal and other responsibilities between and among the entities described in subsection (b) whom shall propose such responsibilities to the Secretary in an application for award of such contract or cooperative agreement containing such information as the Secretary may require.

Sec. 203 Activities.—

(a) Subject to the provisions of this Title, the Anne Sullivan Macy Center on Visual Disability and Educational Excellence is authorized to:

  1. conduct or fund original quantitative and qualitative research and publish or otherwise disseminate such research;
  2. conduct or fund in-person and on-line continuing education opportunities for teachers of students with visual impairments and related services personnel specifically trained to meet the unique learning needs of such students, and prepare, publish or otherwise disseminate supporting materials;
  3. conduct or fund in-person or online enrichment projects for students with visual disabilities (including those who may also have additional disabilities) to offer direct instruction and services intended to improve the capacity of such students to learn effectively and live both productively and independently for the purpose of:

    A. supplementing the availability of such instruction and services offered by state and local educational agencies; and

    B. evaluating, through appropriate quantitative and qualitative methods, the effectiveness of instruction and services offered by such projects;

  4. fund, in accordance with regulations otherwise applicable to personnel preparation programs supported under Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the establishment of programs within institutions of higher education preparing teachers of students with visual impairments (which have not been previously funded under such Part) to specifically prepare such teachers to provide expert instruction to students with visual disabilities who also have additional disabilities; and
  5. enter into cooperative agreements, contracts, grants (or other arrangements which may be permitted by the Secretary) with nonprofit organizations possessing demonstrable expertise and experience serving students with visual disabilities or the professionals trained to work with such students, institutions of higher education, state and local educational agencies, public and private specialized schools serving students with visual disabilities, and consortia of such entities, for the purpose of carrying out activities authorized in this subsection that are not otherwise directly conducted, in whole or in part, by the Anne Sullivan Macy Center.

Sec. 204. Authorization of Appropriations and Carry-Over.

a. Authorization of Appropriations—To carry out the provisions of this Title, there are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary, provided that for fiscal year 2014 and for each succeeding fiscal year, the amount appropriated shall be an amount equal to no less than 0.2 percent of funds appropriated in the previous fiscal year for grants to States under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

b. Carry-Over—Funds appropriated pursuant to subsection (a) that have not been expended during the fiscal year for which they were appropriated shall remain available in the subsequent fiscal year, provided that no more than 15 percent of a given fiscal year's appropriation may be so carried over.

Sec. 205. Relationship to Other Programs and Activities.

a. Maximizing Resources—No funds made available pursuant to this Title may be used to fund programs or activities otherwise concurrently funded under Parts D and E of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

b. Coordination of Research—The Secretary shall ensure that research activities authorized and carried out pursuant to this Title are conducted or funded in coordination as appropriate with the National Center for Special Education Research and other divisions within the U.S. Department of Education responsible for research activities.

c. Relationship to Services Offered by the American Printing House for the Blind—Nothing in this Title shall be construed to limit or otherwise condition the use of any funds appropriated pursuant to Chapter 6 of Title 20, United States Code, and no funds made available pursuant to this Title shall be used by any State or local educational agency to supplant the use of funds appropriated under such Chapter.

d. Relationship to Funding for Deaf-Blind Education and for the Helen Keller National Center—The Secretary shall ensure that any activities conducted or funded by the Anne Sullivan Macy Center directly serving individuals who are deaf-blind are coordinated as appropriate with the Helen Keller National Center. No funds made available pursuant to this Title may be used to support activities that are otherwise the sole responsibility of the Helen Keller National Center or may be used to supplant funds for such Center. The Secretary shall ensure that no funds made available pursuant to this Title are used to support activities that are to be funded pursuant to section 682(d)(1)(A) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

e. Work Product—All matter produced by the Anne Sullivan Macy Center shall be the property of the United States, provided that entities comprising the consortium of entities described in section 202(b) shall be individually free, within the terms of the contract or cooperative agreement described in section 202(a), to reproduce, or author copyrighted derivative works using, such matter.

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