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Negotiators Deadlock Over TEACH Eligibility

Federal negotiators have pushed back on the U.S. Department of Education's attempts to tie together the Title II accountability system for teacher preparation with eligibility for the TEACH grant program. (The two policies are housed in different federal statutes.)

TEACH is a grant program that subsidizes tuition for candidates who agree to teach in high-needs fields in low-income schools for four years.

States must identify "high quality" programs for the purpose of TEACH, and the Education Department has also proposed making that label the top tier of a four-tiered system states would be required to use to classify their own programs under Title II of the Higher Education Act.

But a handful of negotiators argued that the definition should be strictly limited to the TEACH grant programs. They contend that the term is too loaded; usurps states' prerogative to define their own categories for the purpose of Title II; locks states into the designation; and, probably most importantly of all, would potentially bar too many institutions from receiving TEACH grants.

When it comes to addressing the important needs identified in the TEACH grants, "I'm not sure why ... only those that are the crème de la crème of teacher preparation get to qualify," said David Prasse, the dean of Loyola University of Chicago's school of education. "If you're [deemed] sufficient, if you're satisfactory, why would we eliminate those institutions from eligibility?"

There's now a proposal from some negotiators to separate the Title II classification system from the TEACH "high quality" designation. Under TEACH, those institutions scoring at the top two categories on Title II would meet the designation, and be eligible for a grant.

But that's raised red flags for other negotiators, who argue it's too similar to the current system, under which few programs have been identified as low performing.

"You run a risk of perpetuating a fundamental problem. In my judgment, given the choice between effective and ineffective, a state will plunk a lot of institutions in the effective category, and that's it, end of story," said David Steiner, the dean of the Hunter College school of education.

And the Education Department itself seems to have similar qualms. "We have a concern that so few schools are designated as 'low performing' and 'at risk', and that having such a broad category of 'effective' and 'distinguished' would be too broad," said Sophia McArdle, the ED's representative on the panel.

Ow. My head hurts.

We'll see what ED comes back with tomorrow.

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