Final Rules Tie Institutional and Program Eligibility for TEACH Grants to State Assessment of Quality

By Joan Berkes, Policy & Federal Relations Staff

This story was revised at 4:00pm on 10/20/2016. Additions/revisions are shown below in red.

The Department of Education (ED) has released an advanced copy of final rules concerning teacher preparation programs and the TEACH Grant Program, to be published in the Federal Register in the next few days. The package includes a new part 612 to be added to education regulations that define how states must assess the quality of teacher preparation programs, and concomitant reporting requirements. Those rules in turn will ultimately impact the determination of TEACH Grant eligibility for institutions and academic programs under the existent part 686.

Rules impacting state assessments and reporting under part 612 are effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register; however, reporting under the new system definitions will not occur until the Title II reporting cycle in 2018 if the state elects to do a pilot, or 2019 in all cases. New definitions of institutional and program eligibility for the TEACH Grant Program under part 686 do not go into effect until the 2021-22 award year. However, other adjustments to TEACH Grant rules become effective July 1, 2017.

Effective 7/1/2017

Among the regulatory amendments effective July 1, 2017, are:

  • Grant recipients may fulfill their service obligation (teaching a high-need field in a low-income school for 4 academic years within 8 years of program completion or ceasing attendance) even if the recipient’s field loses its designation as high-need after the student signed the service agreement or received the grant. (Currently, the field must be designated as high-need at the time the recipient starts teaching. This change applies to teaching service performed on or after July 1, 2010.)

The rules clarify that “low-income school” includes an educational service agency, defined as a regional public multiservice agency authorized by state statute to develop, manage, and provide services or programs to local educational agencies (LEAs).

  • Within certain limits, a TEACH Grant recipient may continue to receive additional TEACH Grants to complete his or her program, if that program loses TEACH Grant eligibility. 

Note, however, that this grandfathering applies to loss of TEACH-specific program eligibility, not to the loss of all Title IV eligibility that would occur if a state withdraws its approval of the academic program. Loss of TEACH-specific program eligibility under the new rules defining high-quality programs will not occur until the 2021-22 academic year at the earliest, although a program may lose TEACH-specific eligibility for other reasons before that.

  • Reinstatement of a service obligation during the 3-year conditional period following discharge due to disability is clarified.

Effective 7/1/2021

Among the regulatory amendments effective July 1, 2021, are the following:

  • Eligibility and obligations of grant recipients whose previous service obligation was cancelled due to disability are further detailed.
  • The definition of TEACH Grant-eligible institution is revised, becoming more restrictive and dependent on state definitions of quality.
  • The definition of TEACH Grant-eligible program is revised and clarified, and distinctions are made between programs that are or are not provided by distance education.
  • Programs are provided through distance education if at least 50 percent of the program’s required coursework is offered through distance education.

TEACH Grant-Eligible Institution and TEACH Grant-Eligible Program

Effective July 1, 2021, an institution will be eligible to participate in the TEACH Grant Program if it provides at least one high-quality teacher preparation program, which may be a distance education program, at the baccalaureate or master’s level, that also provides supervision and support services to teachers, or assists in the provision of services to teachers. A high-quality teacher preparation program is generally one that is not classified by the state as less than an “effective teacher preparation program” in two of the previous three years.

An “effective teacher preparation program” is defined in the new part 612 as a teacher preparation program with a level of performance higher than a low-performing teacher preparation program or an at-risk teacher preparation program. Whether a program is low-performing or at risk of being low-performing is determined by the state according to the conditions the state establishes for the assessment of teacher preparation performance. Those conditions must be based on parameters set forth by ED in new part 612. The conditions may vary by state, but must be established in consultation with a representative group of stakeholders. Each state must assess, for each teacher preparation program within its jurisdiction, indicators of academic content knowledge and teaching skills of novice teachers from that program; the final regulations provide certain minimum indicators for that assessment.

If a program that was eligible as a high-quality teacher preparation program subsequently fails the two out of the three-year test of effectiveness, it loses TEACH-specific program eligibility, subject to the grandfathering clause noted above.

A school will no longer qualify if it provides a program in a high-need field but arranges for the teacher preparation coursework to be provided by another institution. Eligibility may continue to be based on a two-year transfer program, with certain clarifications, or a post-baccalaureate program.

The revised definition clarifies other current statutory provisions that allow eligibility based on a master’s degree program, other than a “high quality teacher preparation program,” if it prepares a teacher or a retiree from another occupation with expertise in a high-need field or a teacher who is using high-quality alternative certification routes to become certified.

The definitions of TEACH Grant-eligible institutions and programs in part 686 (the TEACH Grant Program regulations) will no longer refer to specialized accreditation or approval by a state and minimum content criteria, but these factors will not go away. They are instead subsumed into the new part 612 as one of the indicators of the state’s assessment of teacher preparation programs [under 612.5(a)].

Effective July 1, 2021, a teacher preparation program that loses state approval or state financial support as a result of being assessed by the state as low-performing under these new rules, also loses eligibility for the Title IV programs, including TEACH Grants.

Part 612, Title II Reporting System

As noted above, part 612 is new and establishes regulations related to the teacher preparation program accountability system under Title II of the Higher Education Act (HEA). It includes:

  • Institutional Report Card reporting requirements
  • State Report Card reporting requirements
  • Requirements related to the indicators states must use to report on teacher preparation program performance (which includes a minimum of 3 rating levels of teacher preparation program assessment: low-performing, at risk of being low-performing, and effective)
  • Requirements related to the areas states must consider to identify low-performing teacher preparation programs and at-risk teacher preparation programs and actions states must take with respect to those programs
  • The consequences for a low-performing teacher preparation program that loses the state’s approval or the state’s financial support (a teacher preparation program that loses state approval or state financial support as a result of being assessed by the state as low-performing under the new reporting rules, also loses eligibility for the Title IV programs, including TEACH Grants, as of the following payment period)
  • The conditions under which a low-performing teacher preparation program that has lost the state’s approval or the state’s financial support may regain eligibility to resume accepting and enrolling students who receive title IV, HEA funds.

 

Publication Date: 10/20/2016


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