Education Information:

Changes in Funds and Priorities Have Affected Production and Quality

PEMD-88-4: Published: Nov 4, 1987. Publicly Released: Dec 8, 1987.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the condition of information on education in the United States to determine the: (1) kinds of information gathering activities the federal government has sponsored and how they have changed; (2) changes in the quality of the information; and (3) factors influencing information production and quality. GAO studied three federally supported educational research and statistical programs, focusing on the: (1) National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP); (2) Common Core of Data (CCD) Program for elementary and secondary education; and (3) Fast Response Survey System (FRSS).

GAO found that the number of: (1) research grants and contracts decreased 65 percent from 476 in 1980 to 168 in 1985; (2) evaluation contracts dropped 79 percent from 119 in 1980 to 25 in 1985; and (3) statistical surveys fell 31 percent from 55 in 1980 to 38 in 1983. GAO also found increases in: (1) information dissemination operations and testimony provision, with decreases in research regarding special populations and school problems; and (2) grant and contract awards to department-sponsored institutions. In addition, GAO found that: (1) the quality of information collected varied in terms of relevance, timeliness, technical adequacy, and impact; (2) NAEP quality was generally good, although efforts to optimize one aspect of quality often caused losses in other dimensions; (3) FRSS received high ratings for relevance and medium ratings for technical adequacy and timeliness; (4) CCD had generally poor information quality; (5) congressionally mandated activities consumed an increasing share of available resources; and (6) rapid turnover of staff influenced and frequently changed the direction of activities.

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