Organizations Have ‘Serious Concerns’ About the Teach Act

To the Editor:

It is unfortunate that Kyle Shachmut misconstrued the impact of the Teach Act (formally the Technology, Equality and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act) and misrepresented the American Council on Education’s position on the legislation in his essay (“A New Obstacle for Students With Disabilities,” The Chronicle, September 12).

There are good reasons why ACE and 20 other higher-education organizations, representing nearly every college and university in the country, have serious concerns about what the Teach Act would mean for higher education’s ability to use technology to advance learning.

Here are the facts:

• The bill as written would take the decision-making on the usage of technology out of the hands of colleges and universities and turn it over to an obscure federal agency with no higher-education expertise.
• That agency struggles to meet its current responsibilities and its guidelines for technology are 14 years out of date.
• This leaves institutions in the position of choosing between falling behind technologically or risking being sued. Neither of these are good outcomes.
• As written, the Teach Act is overly broad and ambiguous and open to interpretation. As a result, colleges will inevitably struggle to comply.
• And it would eliminate the flexibility in current law to treat each student as an individual, making it harder for institutions to accommodate students with disabilities.

The bottom line is that the bill as written would damage the quality of learning for all students and it would freeze the development and implementation of new learning technologies to benefit our students, including students with disabilities.

It also is disappointing that Mr. Shachmut, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts, apparently did not speak with his organization’s federal-relations staff. If he had, he would have known that ACE and Educause more than a year ago clearly conveyed these concerns about the Teach Act and offered to work with NFB to craft a better piece of legislation that can help all students.

ACE and other higher-education organizations are committed to finding ways to improve learning for all students, and we hope Mr. Shachmut and the NFB will join us.

Terry W. Hartle
Senior Vice President
American Council on Education
Washington

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