The Department of Education wants to change the way states rate their teacher preparation programs. Under Title II of the Higher Education Act (HEA), states are required to report various characteristics of teacher preparation programs and determine which programs are low performing. Performance ratings are tied to eligibility for Title IV student assistance, with low-performing programs risking loss of federal student aid funds for students in that teacher preparation program.
Under proposed rules published December 3, states would be required to collect data and evaluate teacher education programs based on indicators of:
- Learning outcomes of students taught by program graduates.
- Employment outcomes of program graduates, including placement and retention rates.
- Surveys of teachers and employers.
- Attainment of specialized accreditation or use of rigorous entry and exit qualifications.
- States would be free to add other measures.
Based on these outcome measures, states also would be required to establish criteria to classify each teacher preparation program using at least four performance levels: low-performing, at-risk, effective and exceptional. States would have to offer technical assistance to improve the performance of low-performing programs. If a low-performing teacher preparation program loses state approval or financial support, it may no longer accept or enroll students receiving Title IV student aid and must provide transitional support to current students.
Colleges and universities also must make "report cards" on their teacher preparation programs available on their websites and through printed materials. The institutional and state report cards are intended to be used by prospective students, employers, and the public to make informed decisions about teacher preparation programs.
The TEACH Grant program provides grants of $4,000 per year to eligible students intending to become teachers at high-need schools in high-need subjects (with a post-graduation service requirement). The HEA restricts eligibility to "high quality" programs but that term is not defined in the current regulations. In the proposed rules, ED would tie TEACH Grant eligibility to a state's classification of a teacher preparation program under the Title II requirements, so that only programs judged to be effective or exceptional would be eligible. Students who had already received a TEACH Grant would be grandfathered in and could continue to receive grants in subsequent years even if their program lost eligibility.
The proposed regulations would also update ED's rules to reflect a statutory change enacted in 2008 that allows a TEACH Grant recipient to meet their service obligation by teaching in a subject that was designated as a high-need area at the time the grant was received, even if the subject was subsequently dropped from the list. The regulations also would be updated to conform to the program's total and permanent disability provisions to those of other Title IV programs.
Background and Dates
Many of ED's proposals were controversial when they were discussed by stakeholders at negotiated rulemaking meetings in early 2012. The negotiating committee did not reach consensus on draft rules, although the extended discussions have clearly informed the outcome.
Implementation Dates. Because states would need time to set up new data collection mechanisms, ED suggests that institutional report cards would first be due in October 2017, with state report cards made public by April 2018. This schedule might slip depending on when ED disseminates final regulations.
Comment Deadline. Comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking will be accepted until February 2, 2015.