Vocational Education:

Information on the National Research Center's Grant Award Process

HRD-88-56: Published: Jan 29, 1988. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Education's procedures in awarding a grant to establish the National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

GAO found that: (1) Education did not develop any criteria for the selection of field readers to read and score the grant applications, but developed a list of potential readers from staff members' personal knowledge of individuals prominent in postsecondary and vocational education research; (2) since there were no criteria defining what constituted a substantial financial contribution from an applicant, program officials used their own judgement and approved the awardee's proposed first-year contribution of $686,000, although it was less than those of the other two applicants; and (3) after grant negotiations, the awardee agreed to name an executive director and associate director instead of two codirectors. GAO also found that: (1) field readers openly discussed their scores for each applicant before they completed their final reviews; (2) four of the five readers recalled that, using raw scores, the applicant who subsequently filed suit alleging that Education violated the grant award was ranked first and the awardee second; and (3) it could not determine if the differences between the top-ranked and the second-ranked applicant's scores were statistically significant because of the limited number of readers who reviewed the proposals. Although GAO found no evidence that field readers improperly influenced other readers, it believes that withholding information on the reader's initial scores would reduce the possibility of any reader manipulating the scoring system.

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