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    Subject Term: "Secondary education"

    5 publications with a total of 9 open recommendations including 2 priority recommendations
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to expand its performance measures for the 21st Century program to address all program objectives. Specifically, Education should establish performance measures related to key behavioral, including student attendance and disciplinary incidents, and socio-emotional outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with our recommendations; rather, it generally noted that it will keep our recommendations in mind as it continues to implement changes in the program as a result of ESSA. Specifically, the department stated that it is in the process of re-examining whether additional or revised measures should be developed to align more significantly with the program's statutory objectives under ESSA. Education also expressed concern about collecting data on student attendance and disciplinary measures, noting that it will require effective collaboration between states, districts, and other eligible entities. However, we note that about half of states already collect data on at least one of these two measures; and that research has shown that 21st Century programs more often have positive effects on student attendance and reducing disciplinary incidents than on improving students' academic outcomes. Given these effects, we continue to believe that it is critical for Education to measure student attendance and disciplinary incidents to obtain more complete, accurate information on this program's effect on student outcomes.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to conduct federal-level data checks on the accuracy of 21st Century program data submitted by states. Such checks could test for logical relationships between fields. Education should also publicly disclose and address any data limitations it identifies, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education commented that it plans to build in additional data checks into the data system beyond its current checks on the data's completeness. Specifically, Education anticipates that new technology enhancements in the data system will be designed to flag for inconsistencies in data reporting. For example, the system may send a "flag" that participation data is significantly lower or higher than previously reported participation data. Further, Education indicated that it will consider whether auditors performing audits under the Single Audit Act can be asked and guided to do more checks on the accuracy and reliability of 21st Century program data.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to provide written, non-regulatory guidance to states on developing and conducting high-quality 21st Century state evaluations to help address the difficulties states face in measuring program performance and effectiveness.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education outlined several steps it has taken to assist states in the past. For example, Education said that it provided six states with individualized technical assistance on strategies related to developing statewide evaluations and measures. Education also noted that, to date, it has conducted two webinars on state evaluations and is in the process of including presentations from those webinars on its online learning portal so that states will have easy access to the information. In addition, Education stated that it included presentations on evaluation strategies in the past during its Summer Institute. Education also said it would consider whether additional guidance for all states was needed. While these are important steps, we do not believe they are sufficient. We continue to believe that Education should prepare written guidance to assist all states in developing and conducting high-quality program evaluations.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to use the information it collects from its monitoring visits and ongoing interactions with states to share effective practices across states for sustaining their 21st Century programs once program funding ends. This information could be shared using existing mechanisms such as Education's meetings with 21st Century state coordinators.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education noted that it hosts meetings twice a year for 21st Century state coordinators where strategies related to program sustainability are shared with states. These meetings covered topics such as reducing the amounts of 21st Century grant awards by a percentage each year. However, these meetings have not focused on topics on program sustainability for several years. We continue to believe that Education should take the lead in sharing information with states to help them address their sustainability challenges by sharing information on state policies and practices that have shown some success.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better manage any challenges states may face implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of State Support to evaluate its oversight process in light of the challenges states encountered in implementing the Flexibility initiative to identify lessons learned and, as appropriate, incorporate any lessons into plans for overseeing the ESSA, particularly around issues such as the design and implementation of states' monitoring systems.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed that it is important to continuously evaluate its work and to consider ways to improve its efficiency and effectiveness and cited examples of the agency doing so during ESEA Flexibility implementation. For example, Education said it developed the Office of State Support, in part based on lessons learned while implementing the Flexibility initiative. In addition, Education said that since the ESSA was enacted in December 2015, it has continued to informally evaluate ESEA Flexibility implementation and oversight and cited several examples relevant to ESEA Flexibility and other Education programs and initiatives. Further, the agency provided is piloting quarterly calls between Education program officers and states and piloting a fiscal review in eight states focused on components of the law it says did not change significantly between NCLBA and ESSA. As Education continues its efforts to evaluate lessons learned from the Flexibility initiative - including the peer review process - and apply them to its oversight of ESSA, we encourage Education to incorporate these lessons into how it oversees the design and implementation of states' monitoring systems which are key to the success of ESSA's accountability provisions.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct Education's Office for Civil Rights to more routinely analyze its Civil Rights Data Collection by school groupings and types of schools across key elements to further explore and understand issues and patterns of disparities. For example, Education could use this more detailed information to help identify issues and patterns among school types and groups in conjunction with its analyses of student groups.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that it already analyzes its civil rights data in some of the ways we recommended, and in light of our recommendation, will consider whether additional analysis could augment their core civil rights enforcement mission. Education noted that it often uses the type of analyses GAO recommended, when appropriate, to inform its internal civil rights investigations, and makes the data available to researchers and other stakeholders outside the agency. While these efforts are encouraging, our recommendation emphasizes that the agency itself more routinely use the civil rights data across key data elements to help it identify disparities and patterns among groups and types of schools. Such an analysis could enhance the agency's current efforts and ultimately improve the agency's ability to target oversight and technical assistance to the schools that need it most. Education reported that this recommendation would be implemented by September 15, 2017. At that time, we will await documentation of its analyses by the school groupings as specified in our recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Attorney General of the United States should direct the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division to systematically track key summary information across its portfolio of open desegregation cases and use this data to inform its monitoring of these cases. Such information could include, for example, dates significant actions were taken or reports received.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Justice concurred with this recommendation and believes its procedures for tracking case-related data are adequate. Justice reported in 2016 that it is currently developing an electronic document management system that may allow more case-related information to be stored in electronic format. The agency has already taken substantial steps to increase its case monitoring activities in desegregation cases, and intends to continue those efforts. However, Justice did not provide any details on what these steps are or if these steps are in line with our recommendation. GAO is encouraged that the agency sees a need to increase case monitoring. We will consider closing this recommendation when the agency provides specific information on its systematic tracking of information on open cases and using this information to enhance enforcement.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: Using its general authority to collaborate with other federal agencies, the Secretary of Education should convene its federal interagency partners to develop a strategic approach to interagency collaboration on school emergency preparedness. This group could include designees or delegates from the Secretaries of DHS, HHS, and the Attorney General, including representatives from relevant agency components, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and others as appropriate, and should incorporate leading federal interagency collaboration practices, for example, by: (1) identifying leadership, (2) defining outcomes and assigning accountability, (3) including all relevant participants, and (4) identifying necessary resources.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education agrees that improved federal coordination will better assist K-12 schools in preparing for emergencies, and noted that other federal agencies, including especially FEMA, play a significant role in school emergency preparedness. Additionally, Education cited the importance of involving other relevant agencies in obtaining agreement on the assignment of roles and responsibilities, including selecting a lead agency charged with primary responsibility for coordinating federal emergency preparedness assistance to K-12 schools. In August 2016, Education convened a committee of Assistant Secretary-level representatives from relevant agencies, including DHS, FEMA, and TSA, among others, to develop a strategic approach to interagency collaboration on school emergency management efforts. Subsequently, in October 2016, it convened a task force consisting of program staff from the relevant agencies to draft a plan for organizational structure, goals, and objectives for the next five years, which it expects will be approved for implementation beginning in January 2017. We are encouraged by these actions and will monitor the group's progress towards developing a strategic approach to school emergency preparedness. Education stated that it expects to complete these efforts very soon. At that time, we will await documentation showing that it has finalized and implemented its strategic approach for interagency collaboration around school emergency management.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that veterans' education benefits are used effectively, the Secretary of VA should take additional steps to improve the outreach, accessibility, and usefulness of its educational counseling services, particularly for prospective student veterans, for example by (1) featuring these services in resources intended for prospective students veterans; (2) prioritizing efforts to enable veterans to apply for educational counseling online; and (3) considering cost-effective ways to gather more information on applicants, users, and key program areas (such as the timeliness of service) to better identify service needs or gaps and to improve the effectiveness of future outreach.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA has taken steps and is planning additional work to improve the accessibility and usefulness of its educational counseling services, especially for prospective student veterans. Specifically, VA has incorporated an online application and some additional information about educational counseling on its website. However, VA is in the process of transitioning to a new website, vets.gov, which is not yet fully operational. Additionally, the current pathway within that website for prospective student veterans to learn about educational counseling is not completely clear, and VA officials noted that they are working on specific sequencing for the new website to present that information. VA has estimated that the new website will be fully operational by the end of March 2017. At that time, GAO will review the new website to make sure that prospective student veterans who want help on how to use their education benefits effectively have an easy-to-follow pathway to access information explaining VA's educational counseling services and the different ways to apply for these services.