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Focus on Regulation

U.S. Department of Education Seeks Public Comment on Distance Education Teacher Preparation Programs

shutterstock_31704223On April 1, the U.S. Department of Education issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (supplemental NPRM) to seek comment on certain issues related to teacher preparation programs offered by institutions of higher education via distance education.

On December 3, 2014, the Department published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to implement certain requirements for the teacher preparation program accountability system contained in Title II of the Higher Education Act and to amend the regulations governing the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. More than 4,800 parties submitted comments in response to the 2014 NPRM. Some of those comments asked the Department to clarify how the state reporting requirements in the NPRM would apply to teacher preparation programs provided through distance education and how those requirements would affect TEACH Grant eligibility for students enrolled in teacher preparation programs provided through distance education. For example, commenters asked for clarification on whether only one state would be responsible for reporting on, and determining the performance level of, teacher preparation programs offered through distance education, or whether any state whose residents enrolled in such a program would be required to do so. Commenters also observed that the proposed regulations were unclear regarding TEACH Grant eligibility of students enrolled in a teacher preparation program offered through distance education in instances where different states provide conflicting ratings of the program.

In response to those specific comments, the supplemental NPRM describes the Department’s proposed clarification of the application of the regulations to distance education programs:

  • The Department proposes to require each state to report annually and separately on the performance of each teacher preparation program provided through distance education if at least 25 graduates of that program become certified in the state in a given reporting year; and
  • No student enrolled in a teacher preparation program provided through distance education would be eligible to receive a TEACH Grant, regardless of his or her state of residence, if any state classifies the program as a low-performing or at-risk of being low-performing in specified years.

Colleges and universities that offer teacher preparation programs through distance education should review the supplemental NPRM and consider submitting comments on the specific issues addressed. The due date for public comments on issues addressed in the supplemental NPRM is May 2, 2016.