Department of Education:

Status of Achieving Key Outcomes and Addressing Major Management Challenges

GAO-01-827: Published: Jun 29, 2001. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 2001.

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This report reviews the Department of Education's performance report for fiscal year 2000. Specifically, GAO examines Education's progress in achieving selected key outcomes that are important to its mission. Given the lack of performance data, explanations, and strategies to meet unmet goals in the future, it was difficult for GAO to assess progress. The lack of a performance plan also hindered GAO's efforts. Specifically, GAO found that it was difficult to assess Education's progress in achieving the six selected outcomes because of the lack of fiscal year 2000 data for many of its indicators. Consistent with its findings in reviewing Education's performance report from last year, GAO found that Education had no goals or measures for preventing fraud, waste, mismanagement, and error in the student financial assistance programs. Although the Office of Student Financial Assistance has established a target of being removed from GAO's high-risk list, there were no corresponding goals or measures in the department's interim report. However, Education has revised its strategic plan to incorporate an objective of ensuring financial integrity within the department. Like last year's report, GAO found that there was no discussion in the interim report on strategic human capital management.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve Education's future performance reports and plans, the Secretary of Education should initiate a dialogue with the appropriate congressional committees to discuss the lack of annual reporting data and what this means with respect to how management at the department is most appropriately assessed and how Education could be more responsive to Congress fulfilling its annual Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 reporting requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department has developed a performance based data management initiative. According to a Department official, Education has discussed this initiative with different congressional committees and OMB. In support of this effort, it is in the process of developing an Education Data Exchange Network (EDEN) to provide states and the federal government the capacity to transfer and analyze information about education programs. In April 2003, Education began conducting site visits to state education agencies to document states' capacity to provide timely and high quality data through EDEN. Education also has plans for a physical data repository that will provide Education programs with the information they need for program performance accountability, which should reduce the reporting burden on state and local education agencies. Education estimates that it will complete the phase one pilot test in late 2003, and that the system will be fully operational in Spring 2005.

    Recommendation: To improve Education's future performance reports and plans, the Secretary of Education should develop performance goals and measures to address the outcome of less fraud, waste, mismanagement, and error in student financial assistance programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department's 2002-2007 strategic plan includes the following performance measures regarding federal student aid programs: (1) being taken off of GAO's high-risk list; (2) improving the default recovery rate; (3) reducing Pell overpayments; and (4) improving the timeliness of Education's major system reconciliations to the General Ledger. The Department's Annual Plan has many action items to achieve these goals. The Department included performance indicators for each of these in its fiscal year 2002 Performance and Accountability Report, and met its targets for indicators except being taken off the high risk list.

    Recommendation: To improve Education's future performance reports and plans, the Secretary of Education should develop specific goals and measures to be included in future performance reports and plans to address the issue of strategic human capital management.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The following performance measures related to strategic human capital management were included in the Department's 2002-2007 strategic plan: (1) the extent that employees are focused on results; (2) the extent that Education has met skill gap reduction targets included in its human capital management plan; (3) the percentage of managers satisfied with support services for hiring staff; and (4) the extent that Education is meeting its annual goals for competitive sourcing. Education included these in its fiscal year 2002 Performance and Accountability Report, but performance data were unavailable with the exception of manager satisfaction with support services for hiring staff. The Department has acknowledged that there were problems with some of the measures. For example, measures based on an employee survey were measuring perception rather than performance. The Department has changed these performance measures to to better measure performance, provide more timely data, and allow for more thorough analysis.

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