Negotiators Fail to Reach Consensus on Proposed Regulatory Changes for TEACH Grant

By Joe Pettibon, Associate Vice President for Academic Services at Texas A&M University and NASFAA-nominated negotiator on the TEACH Grant Negotiated Rulemaking

Despite an extended deadline, negotiators failed to reach consensus on a package of proposed regulatory changes to Title II Teacher Preparation Program reporting, Title IV Financial Aid and TEACH Grants.  

After meeting for seven and a half days, negotiators persuaded the Department to extend the negotiated rulemaking process to try to address the remaining issues and discuss items that had not yet been reviewed.  However, the resulting three-hour conference call failed to yield any progress. Though the process yielded fruitful discussions and information, the Department will now proceed with developing proposed regulatory language as it chooses.

The proposed regulations would have eliminated TEACH Grant eligibility for institutions that do not have a teacher preparation program. The changes would have also eliminated TEACH Grant eligibility for an institution's teacher preparation program that the institution's state designates as at-risk or low performing. Negotiators expressed concern that such changes would punish needy students for an institution's or a teacher preparation program's performance.

The proposed regulations would have expanded state Title II reporting requirements and stipulated that states categorize teacher preparation programs into at least four different categories: exceptional, effective, at-risk and low-performing. Currently, states only identify at-risk and low performing categories. In addition, the proposed language would have discontinued the current method of treating an institution's teacher preparation programs as a whole, and delineated such programs by subject matter (i.e. math, science, elementary education, etc.).

Ultimately, however, the negotiations failed to reach consensus for three primary reasons:

  1. Negotiators argued that there was not enough research to support the proposal to tie TEACH Grant eligibility to teacher preparation program performance. Though statutory language restricts the TEACH Grant to high-quality teacher preparation programs, negotiators said they could not support utilizing a method without proof of its success. They also expressed concern about embedding Title II language into the Title IV regulations.
  2. Negotiators argued that student learning outcomes -- which tie PK-12 student growth to an institution’s teacher preparation program -- are unproven and not supported as valid or reliable in evaluating teachers or teacher preparation programs.  In addition, many states would have to create whole new systems for tracking student learning outcomes and some state’s constitutions directly prohibit the collection of this type of information.  Most existing systems tracking student learning outcomes do so only for very limited subsets of students, not the whole PK-12 system.
  3. Many negotiators also expressed concern about the negotiated rulemaking process, arguing that issues were not reviewed and addressed methodically. Negotiators also said the intent to reduce the reporting burden on institutions and states was lost in the process, as they believed the proposals would increase that burden.  In addition, some Title IV TEACH Grant issues, while less controversial, were reviewed at the second session of negotiations, but never discussed in the third session or the conference call.

The Department intends to publish its proposed regulatory changes in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).