Status of the Department of Education's Inventory of Its Data Collections

GAO-13-596R: Published: Jun 28, 2013. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 2013.

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George A. Scott
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What GAO Found

Education's inventory of its data collections is expected to include descriptive information, referred to as metadata, about the context of each data collection, as well as the specific data elements reported by respondents for each collection. The inventory will contain the department's major data collections and will be ready for public release by November 2013, according to Education officials. The inventory is to eventually include all statistical and grant administration collections that meet Education's definition of a data collection.

Education has followed a reasonable process to populate its inventory and has designed appropriate internal controls to ensure the accuracy of information included, such as reviewing and verifying data entered into the inventory. Education solicited input on its data inventory design from internal stakeholders through a team formed to address data coordination efforts across the various program offices.

Education plans to make its inventory publicly available through a searchable web database by November 2013. The web database may be launched through the department's website or through, a federal website that provides public access to datasets generated and held by federal agencies.

Why GAO Did This Study

Education administers numerous information collections to a variety of entities. These data collections are used for research, accountability, monitoring, compliance with civil rights laws, and other purposes. GAO was asked to determine the breadth of Education’s data collection efforts and examine Education’s efforts to compile an inventory of its data collections. Specifically, GAO examined (1) what information the inventory of Education’s data collections will contain and when it will be completed, (2) the process Education is using to catalog its data collections, and to what extent that process includes internal controls to ensure the accuracy of the information collected, and (3) Education’s plan to make its data collection inventory publicly available.

What GAO Recommends

GAO makes no recommendations in this report.

For more information, contact George A. Scott at (202) 512-7215 or

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