The Troops-to-Teachers program has been giving grants to states to help military personnel become K-12 teachers since 1992. The Department of Defense canceled the program in 2020, but reinstated it in 2021.
The program's goals are to reduce teacher shortages in high-need schools and in key subjects like math, science, and special education. But it's unclear whether the program is meeting its goals, because DOD:
Lost access to participant data when it previously canceled the program
Has not used the data from grantees' annual performance reports
Has not worked with the Department of Education
We recommended addressing these issues.
What GAO Found
Participation in Troops-to-Teachers—a Department of Defense (DOD) program that makes grants to states to help military personnel become teachers—generally declined from fiscal years 2014 through 2020. Reported program hires also dropped from 7,718 to 1,450 during this time (see figure). The program had higher representation of groups typically underrepresented in the K-12 teacher workforce: 72 percent of participants were men and 42 percent were non-White.
Troops-to-Teachers Program Participants and Hires, Fiscal Years 2014-20
DOD established a program goal of reducing critical teacher shortages in areas with high-need schools (e.g., those enrolling a higher percentage of low-income students) and in key subjects such as math, science, and special education. However, DOD does not have complete data on the schools and subjects program participants teach because it lost access to the data when it canceled the program in 2020 and shut down its data management system in 2021. However, the program's prior annual reports show, for example, in fiscal year 2017, at least 273 participants taught in a high-need school. In addition, for fiscal year 2018 through fiscal year 2020, a total of at least 155 participants taught science, math, special education, or foreign language in a high-need school.
DOD has collected standardized performance data from grantees through their required annual performance reports since 2019, but has not evaluated the program's effectiveness in the past 5 years. In the absence of a mechanism to report data that will help assess the program's overall performance across grantees, DOD will be limited in its ability to determine if the program is fully achieving its stated goals. Although a statutorily required memorandum of agreement (MOA) states that DOD should meet with and provide program information to the Department of Education (Education), DOD does not currently do either. DOD officials said that reestablishing this relationship would be helpful. Doing so would better position DOD to identify opportunities to enhance the program's potential.
Why GAO Did This Study
Originally authorized in 1992, the Troops-to-Teachers program was transferred from Education to DOD in 2013. In 2020, DOD canceled the program due to the realignment of agency resources. In December 2021 federal law directed DOD to reinstate the program, with a sunset date of July 1, 2025. Senate Report 117-39 included a provision for GAO to assess the program.
This report examines (1) the numbers and characteristics of program participants, (2) what is known about participant employment, and (3) how DOD assesses the program's effectiveness and implements its MOA with Education.
GAO analyzed data on program participants for fiscal year 2014 through fiscal year 2020. GAO interviewed officials from DOD and Education. GAO also interviewed officials from three state grantees with active grant agreements and relatively high numbers of veterans, program participants, and reported hires, and school districts within them having relatively high numbers of high-need schools, among other factors. GAO also reviewed relevant agency documentation and federal laws.
GAO is making three recommendations, that DOD: use performance data to assess program effectiveness; establish a mechanism for reporting data; and fulfill its responsibilities in the MOA with Education. DOD did not concur with two and partially concurred with one of the recommendations. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are warranted as discussed in the report.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should ensure DANTES uses the data collected through its annual performance reporting process to assess and report on the effectiveness of the Troops-to-Teachers program in meeting each of its stated goals. (Recommendation 1)||
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should ensure DANTES establishes a mechanism to report relevant performance information and more fully assess the program's overall performance across grantees. (Recommendation 2)||
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should ensure DANTES fulfills its responsibilities regarding the Troops-to-Teachers program in accordance with its June 2013 MOA, including identifying the appropriate personnel. (Recommendation 3)||