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    Subject Term: Students

    33 publications with a total of 104 open recommendations including 7 priority recommendations
    Director: Nick Marinos
    Phone: (202) 512-9342

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to establish and document a procedure for the destruction of records contained in electronic systems in accordance with approved disposition schedules. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to ensure staff receive records management training annually. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to conduct the triennial assessment of the FSA records management program. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to ensure that privacy impact assessments address all required elements. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to ensure that information security-related policies and procedures are reviewed at least annually, in accordance with FSA policy; updated as needed; and approved by security officials. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should incorporate into its program review process the review of postsecondary schools' information security program requirements. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should update its regulation to include protections of personal information as an element of a school's ability to demonstrate its administrative capability. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider requiring that states notify parents/guardians of changes in students' federal special education rights when a student with a disability is moved from public to private school by their parent.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2017, Congress has not considered this matter.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services should review information provided by states related to changes in federal special education rights when a parent places a student with a disability in a private school and work with states to correct inaccurate information.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education generally agreed with this recommendation. However, the agency believes it is necessary to review the full documents containing information provided by states, so that it can determine the context in which the information was presented. We will coordinate with Education as appropriate to facilitate such a review. Reviewing and evaluating the information provided by states are important first steps. However, we continue to believe that it is critical that Education take the next step to work with states to correct any inaccurate information about the rights of students with disabilities under IDEA being provided by private school choice programs.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve oversight of school finances and provide better information to schools and the public about its monitoring efforts, the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should update the composite score formula to better measure schools' financial conditions and capture financial risks.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Federal Student Aid
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education generally disagreed with this recommendation. The agency stated that the report does not show that any changes in accounting standards have made the composite score calculations less reliable. Our report notes that components and definitions in Education's composite score do not reflect changes in accounting practices. As a result, some aspects of Education's formula are no longer directly linked to information in schools' audited financial statements. This makes the composite score difficult to apply in a consistent, uniform manner -- a problem that will be compounded by new accounting standards that go into effect later in 2017 that change how nonprofit schools will report net assets on their financial statements. Education stated that it will work with the Financial Accounting Standards Board on future changes to the accounting standards that may affect a school's composite score calculation; however, revisions to the underlying composite score formula are necessary to ensure consistency with accounting practices and to realign the formula with the information schools report in their audited financial statements. These and other weaknesses collectively raise significant concerns about the effectiveness of the composite score as a measure of schools' financial conditions. We continue to believe that Education should address these weaknesses by updating the composite score formula to better protect students and taxpayers going forward.
    Recommendation: To improve oversight of school finances and provide better information to schools and the public about its monitoring efforts, the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should improve guidance to schools about how the financial composite score is calculated, for example, by updating current guidance to include explanations about common areas of confusion and misinterpretation for schools.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Federal Student Aid
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation and that additional general guidance to schools would be helpful. The department also stated that it will update the guidance in its Federal Student Aid Handbook and may provide answers and related guidance to some frequently asked questions on its website. We will consider closing this recommendation then this effort has been completed.
    Recommendation: To improve oversight of school finances and provide better information to schools and the public about its monitoring efforts, the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should increase the transparency of public data on schools' financial health by publicly listing the final composite score for each school.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Federal Student Aid
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated it would further evaluate this recommendation. Education agreed that transparency in providing financial responsibility outcomes for schools is important. The department also stated that it will further evaluate the recommendation to ensure that any action it takes will provide information to the public that is precise, fair, and accurate.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help improve students' access to information so that they can make well-informed transfer decisions, the Secretary of Education should require schools to (1) disclose the list of schools with which they have articulation agreements online if the school has a website, and (2) clearly inform students, on the school's website if it has one, when no articulation agreements on credit transfer are in place. If the department determines that it does not have the authority to require this, it should nonetheless encourage schools to take these actions (through guidance or other means).

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education disagreed with this recommendation, noting that it already requires schools to disclose a list of other schools with which they have established articulation agreements. Given that the purpose of required consumer disclosures on articulation agreements is to inform students, we believe that posting this information online would make it more accessible to prospective students compared to publications located physically on a school's campus. The increased accessibility would be especially beneficial for prospective students who live far away from the school. Education also noted that students should contact specific schools to obtain accurate and updated information. While it is important for students to contact schools, we found that not all schools listed transfer-specific contacts on their websites. Thus, it is particularly important that the required consumer information on articulation agreements be easily accessible to students. Moreover, according to Education, online disclosure is already required with respect to a school's credit transfer policies if the school has a website, and schools are increasingly using their websites to provide other consumer information to students. In addition, Education cautioned that placing special emphasis on articulation agreements could mislead students because the agreements - or lack thereof - do not fully reflect the transferability of credits: if the few schools with articulation agreements are listed on the school's website or if a school notes that it has no articulation agreements, students may erroneously believe that their credits will transfer only to those few schools or that none of their credits will transfer. However, regardless of the number of articulation agreements a school may have, schools are already legally required to disclose the list of partner schools and we found that a majority of schools already disclose a list of partner schools on their websites. It is unclear why posting this required information online would be more confusing than disclosing this information through publications or other means. Further, according to Education, schools are also legally required to disclose their credit transfer policies online, in effect, outlining the circumstances under which students can generally transfer credits. Hence, using a school's website to disclose the list of other schools with which there are articulation agreements, or the fact that there are no agreements, would enhance students' understanding of their transfer options and help reduce confusion rather than mislead students.
    Recommendation: To help improve students' access to information so that they can make well-informed transfer decisions, the Secretary of Education should provide students and their families with general transfer information, for example by developing a consumer guide and posting it on Education's website or augmenting transfer information already provided on the website, to help increase awareness of key considerations when transferring schools.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation and said that it plans to include this information on its studentaid.gov website. We will monitor the progress of this and other efforts.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop and take corrective actions, in consultation with Interior's Designated Agency Safety and Health Official, to address BIA safety program weaknesses identified in prior Interior evaluations.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. In early August 2017, Indian Affairs reported that BIA is currently developing a corrective action plan to address specific findings and recommendations from a 2016 Interior review of BIA's safety program. Indian Affairs reported that its safety office will track BIA's progress on a monthly basis and provide a report to the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs and Interior's Designated Agency Safety and Health Official. Indian Affairs reported a target date of July 31, 2018 for implementing this recommendation. We will monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation and provide a corrective action plan.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to assign responsibility to a specific office or official to develop and implement a plan to assess employees' safety training needs and monitor employees' compliance with Indian Affairs' safety training requirements.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. In early August 2017, Indian Affairs reported that BIA regional leadership, in collaboration with Indian Affairs' safety office, will develop and publish a safety training plan for all Indian Affairs employees with responsibilities for safety inspections. Additionally, Indian Affairs reported that BIA and BIE will develop and implement a policy to ensure that first-line supervisors monitor and report on whether employees have completed the training requirements. Indian Affairs reported a target date of January 31, 2020 for implementing this recommendation. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to ensure that BIA's employee performance standards on inspections are consistently incorporated into the appraisal plans of all BIA personnel with safety program responsibilities.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. In August 2017, Indian Affairs reported that BIE and BIA, in coordination with Indian Affairs' safety office, will incorporate consistent safety inspection performance standards into the appraisal plans of all personnel with safety program responsibilities. Indian Affairs reported a target date of June 30, 2018 for implementing this recommendation. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a performance standard on inspection report quality and establish a process to routinely monitor the quality of inspection reports. Monitoring could include, but not be limited to, the following areas: accuracy of risk levels and abatement timeframes assigned to deficiencies and clarity of language to describe safety hazards and recommended corrections.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. In August 2017, Indian Affairs reported that BIA will amend its 2017 performance standards for safety inspectors to comply with the standards in Indian Affairs' recently updated safety inspection and fire system guidelines. Additionally, Indian Affairs reported that its safety office, BIA, and BIE will develop a comprehensive performance standard for inspection reports and a formal and uniform process for monitoring the quality of safety inspection reports. Indian Affairs reported a target date of June 30, 2020 for implementing this recommendation. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation and await documentation regarding updates to its safety performance standards.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to require safety inspectors to document when inspection reports are sent to schools and establish a process to routinely monitor the timeliness of reports against Indian Affairs' required 30-day timeframe.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. In August 2017, Indian Affairs reported that it had implemented updated safety guidelines in May 2017, which require safety inspectors to complete and submit a safety inspection certification and a transmittal memorandum to schools. Indian Affairs reported that all safety inspectors had received training on the guidelines and that its safety office had established a procedure for monitoring the timeliness of inspection reports sent to schools. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation and await documentation that these actions are completed.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to use information gathered from monitoring the timeliness of school safety inspection reports to assess the performance of employees with safety program responsibilities and hold them accountable.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. In August 2017, Indian Affairs reported that BIE, BIA, and the Indian Affairs safety office will take steps to ensure that all safety personnel performance plans include its standard on inspection report timeliness. First-line supervisors will use data collected by the safety office to hold employees accountable. Indian Affairs reported a target date of September 1, 2019 for implementing this recommendation.
    Director: Rebecca Shea
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that NTTFI is able to provide quality information to support management and program oversight efforts, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to coordinate with the Federal Highway Administration and tribal stakeholders and reexamine the need for road-description and condition data currently collected in the NTTFI and eliminate fields that do not serve an identified purpose.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that NTTFI is able to provide quality information to support management and program oversight efforts, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to for fields determined to have continued relevance for management and program oversight take steps to improve the quality of these data by clarifying guidance in the NTTFI coding guide that tribes use to collect data and by providing additional guidance on steps needed to ensure that data are consistently reported.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that NTTFI is able to provide quality information to support management and program oversight efforts, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to establish a process to monitor data to facilitate timely and targeted corrections to missing or erroneous data.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the DMR, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a means to document when the level of service for each road section was last evaluated.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the DMR, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop and maintain documentation supporting the unit costs of maintenance used to estimate maintenance needs.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the DMR, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a process for more complete and accurate reporting occurring under existing authority of Road Maintenance Program funds expended for performed maintenance on BIA roads.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve data on reasons for student absences, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to provide guidance to BIE schools to collect data on student absences related to road and weather conditions.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To best align resources allocation decisions to needs, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to review the formula to fund transportation at BIE schools and determine, with BIA and tribal stakeholders, what adjustments, such as distinguishing between gravel and paved roads, are needed to better reflect transportation costs for schools.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should analyze the SEIE data to determine why a large proportion of transition-age youth on SSI with reported earnings did not benefit from the SEIE and, if warranted, take actions to ensure that those eligible for the incentive benefit from it.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation. The agency stated that it would also explore various options for increasing connections to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), stating that in addition to assessing options for referring youth to VR and/or changing the Ticket to Work program, the agency will continue to research other options for supporting transitioning youth.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should analyze options to improve communication about SSA-administered work incentives and the implications of work on SSI benefits, with a goal of increasing understanding of SSI program rules and work incentives among transition-age youth and their families. This should include, but not necessarily be limited to, updating SSAs procedures for staff meeting with SSI applicants, recipients, and their families to regularly and consistently discuss - when applicable--how work incentives can prevent reductions in benefit levels and how work history is considered during eligibility redeterminations.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA disagreed with this recommendation, noting that it already analyzed, and continuously monitors and solicits feedback on, options to improve communications. SSA also said it requires staff to meet with SSI recipients regularly and instructs staff to discuss relevant work incentives, and that there is no indication that staff are not providing youth with appropriate work incentive information. However, SSA did not explain how it knows or ensures that staff are providing this information and SSA policies do not instruct staff to consistently convey information to youth and families on how work may or may not affect age 18 redetermination. While SSA's new brochure provides information on age-18 redeterminations, work incentives and other resources, we believe it could also contain additional relevant information, for example, on Medicaid eligibility. We also noted that written information may not be sufficient for conveying complex information. In addition, while we recognize the important role that WIPA projects play in providing work incentives counseling to SSI youth, WIPA projects have limited capacity for serving youth along with other SSI recipients and disability insurance beneficiaries. Therefore, we continue to believe that there are opportunities for SSA to improve its communication with transition-age youth and their families, including through in-person or telephone interactions.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should work with the Secretary of Education to determine the extent to which youth on SSI are not receiving transition services through schools that can connect them to VR agencies and services.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA partially agreed with this recommendation. SSA noted its ongoing collaboration with Education and other agencies through the Promoting Readiness of Minors in SSI (PROMISE) project, stating the initiative is testing the provision of VR services to youth receiving SSI and will provide some evidence related to the role of schools and VR services for this population. SSA also stated it will continue to pursue research in this area. While we recognize the value of this initiative, a final PROMISE evaluation is not expected until winter 2022. In addition, the PROMISE initiative was not designed to determine the extent to which youth on SSI are receiving transition services through schools or are otherwise connected to VR services. SSA also noted that it works with Education and other agencies through the Federal Partners in Transition (FPT) Workgroup to improve the provision of transition services to students with disabilities, and that the FPT has issued a blueprint of agencies' efforts. While the FPT can be a promising vehicle to help connect youth on SSI to key transition services, the FPT had not set timelines or milestones to achieve its broad goal to support positive outcomes for youth with disabilities, nor does it have a list or specific activities and tasks it will undertake. Therefore, we continue to believe additional collaboration by SSA with Education would be beneficial. SSA also noted several concerns related to complying with this recommendation, such as legal (privacy) concerns with data sharing, the capacity of state VR agencies to serve more individuals, and the receptivity of youth on SSI to receiving services. While we acknowledge these challenges, we believe that SSA can take steps to explore actions it could take after considering such legal issues. While low state VR capacity or individual motivation can obstruct receipt of VR services, they should not prevent SSA from working with Education to determine the extent to which SSI youth are sufficiently informed of VR resources that are potentially available to them.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should explore various options for increasing connections to VR agencies and services, including their potential costs and benefits. One option, among others, could be to expand the Ticket to Work program to include youth.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation. The agency stated that, in addition to assessing legal and statutory options for referring youth to VR and/or changing the Ticket to Work program, it would also continue its research supporting youth.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To determine whether IDEA's current transition age requirement allows youth with disabilities, including those with ASD, the time needed to plan and prepare for the transition to adult life, the Secretary of Education should examine outcomes for students when transition services begin at age 16 and the merits and implications of amending IDEA to lower the age at which school districts are to begin providing transition services to students with disabilities, such as 14.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation and has not taken steps to implement it.
    Recommendation: To improve collaboration and leverage the knowledge of key federal agencies serving youth with ASD, the Secretary of HHS should regularly engage key non-member federal agencies that serve or provide supports to young adults with autism in IACC activities. This could include, for example, directly engaging and soliciting input from federal agencies on the IACC strategic plan, or inviting other federal agencies that serve or provide supports to young adults with autism to become IACC members.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, HHS stated that it has engaged with federal agencies as part of an interagency working group on the needs of youth and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our report stated that the IACC missed opportunities to collaborate with non-member federal agencies to report on and monitor services and supports activities for individuals with ASD, which Congress has called for IACC to include in its annual strategic plan and monitoring activities. In response, HHS stated that it has engaged several nonmember federal agencies at various points. However, we continue to believe it should develop strategies to regularly engage key non-member federal agencies in IACC activities, such as by soliciting input on its annual strategic plan.
    Recommendation: To implement the goals and policy priorities of the 2020 Federal Youth Transition Plan, the Federal Partners in Transition (FPT) workgroup--the Secretaries of HHS, Education, Department of Labor, and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration--should develop a long-term implementation plan that includes milestones and specific agency roles and assignments.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation but has not yet taken action to implement it.
    Recommendation: To implement the goals and policy priorities of the 2020 Federal Youth Transition Plan, the Federal Partners in Transition (FPT) workgroup--the Secretaries of HHS, Education, Department of Labor, and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration--should develop a long-term implementation plan that includes milestones and specific agency roles and assignments.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS agreed with this recommendation but stated that the voluntary nature of the FPT precludes definitive implementation plans. We maintain, however, that being a voluntary initiative does not preclude the FPT from establishing long-term milestones and clarifying roles and responsibilities. Without a long-term implementation plan that includes milestones and specific agency roles and assignments, it is less likely that the priorities outlined in the Federal Youth Transition Plan will be achieved.
    Recommendation: To implement the goals and policy priorities of the 2020 Federal Youth Transition Plan, the Federal Partners in Transition (FPT) workgroup--the Secretaries of HHS, Education, Department of Labor, and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration--should develop a long-term implementation plan that includes milestones and specific agency roles and assignments.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA stated that the voluntary nature of the FPT precludes definitive implementation plans. However, we maintain that being a voluntary initiative does not preclude the FPT from establishing long-term milestones and clarifying roles and responsibilities. Without a long-term implementation plan that includes milestones and specific agency roles and assignments, it is less likely that the priorities outlined in the Federal Youth Transition Plan will be achieved.
    Recommendation: To implement the goals and policy priorities of the 2020 Federal Youth Transition Plan, the Federal Partners in Transition (FPT) workgroup--the Secretaries of HHS, Education, Department of Labor, and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration--should develop a long-term implementation plan that includes milestones and specific agency roles and assignments.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed with this recommendation but has not yet taken action to implement it.
    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

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: PCSB should further explore ways to more accurately measure behavior-related time out of school--both partial and full day removals--not captured under current reporting procedures.

    Agency: DC Public Charter School Board
    Status: Open

    Comments: The DC Public Charter School Board did not comment on this recommendation. We will monitor the agency's efforts to address it.
    Recommendation: The D.C. Mayor should direct the Deputy Mayor for Education and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to deepen collaboration with PCSB and other relevant stakeholders, such as charter school local educational agencies, to develop a coordinated plan to continue progress in reducing discipline rates and, as part of this process, make explicit their respective roles, responsibilities, and authorities with regard to discipline in D.C. charter schools. This plan could include developing additional guidance, training, or resources, consistent with the unique autonomy of charter schools.

    Agency: District of Columbia: Executive Office of the Mayor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The agency plans to continue to deepening their collaboration to reduce disciple rates. They will make explicit their common understanding about their relevant roles, and find further ways to cooperate on such matters as guidance, training, data, and other resources for schools.
    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. As of August 2017, Education reported that action is still pending to address this recommendation.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help foster and unaccompanied homeless youth better navigate the college admissions and federal student aid processes, the Secretaries of Education and HHS should jointly study potential options for encouraging and enabling child welfare caseworkers, McKinney-Vento homeless youth liaisons, and other adults who work with these youth to more actively assist them with college planning.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, Education reported that it is continuing its efforts to address the recommendation. In May 2016, Education, working with the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a Foster Youth Transition Toolkit, which addresses both financial aid and college admissions processes. The toolkit was written for youth in or formerly in foster care rather than for professionals who serve these youth. Education noted that it had also posted a Homeless Youth Fact sheet for teachers and other professionals on its website in July. Education said that it will continue to work with HHS and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth about college admissions and federal student aid processes for foster and unaccompanied homeless youth. Education also plans to conduct a technical assistance webinar for McKinney-Vento homeless youth liaisons and to provide technical assistance for other programs. Making such information available on Education's website is an encouraging step, as are plans to conduct webinars for professionals who work with homeless youth. We look forward to the implementation of these plans. However, we continue to believe that HHS and Education should consider ways to encourage more active college planning efforts among professionals who work with homeless and foster youth that consider professional staff's competing goals and priorities and multiple responsibilities.
    Recommendation: To help foster and unaccompanied homeless youth better navigate the college admissions and federal student aid processes, the Secretaries of Education and HHS should jointly study potential options for encouraging and enabling child welfare caseworkers, McKinney-Vento homeless youth liaisons, and other adults who work with these youth to more actively assist them with college planning.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS, working with the Department of Education, issued a Foster Youth Transition Toolkit in May 2016 which encourages current and former foster youth to pursue college and addresses both financial aid and college admissions processes. The toolkit was written for youth in or formerly in foster care, and HHS considers it a resource for unaccompanied homeless youth as well as for the adults who serve these youth. Making such information available through this joint publication is an encouraging step. However, child welfare caseworkers, school homelessness liaisons, and other professionals who work with homeless and foster youth have competing goals and priorities and multiple responsibilities. To encourage and facilitate college planning and admissions efforts, Education and HHS would need to carefully consider professional staff's workloads, responsibilities, and training needs, among other issues, and develop some options for encouraging college planning efforts among professionals in these programs who work with homeless and foster youth. HHS did not provide an update for FY 2017.
    Recommendation: To help foster and unaccompanied homeless youth, as well as adults who assist these youth, better navigate the federal student aid process and obtain information about college resources, the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS, should create webpages directed to homeless and foster youth so they can more easily find tailored and centralized information about available federal and other resources, such as Pell Grants, Chafee Education and Training Voucher Program (Chafee ETV Vouchers), and waivers for college admission tests.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, Education reported that it is continuing its efforts to address the recommendation. In addition to having a webpage about foster youth, Education noted that in April 2016 it had created a new webpage with resources for homeless children and youth. In July 2016, Education developed and posted online a Foster Care Transition Toolkit and a Fact Sheet on federal student aid for homeless youth that is available through its resources webpage. The development and posting of these materials on the agency's website offers helpful resources to foster and homeless youth; however, Education should also make it easier for these youth, who often lack adult support, to find these documents easily--such as by referring to them on the page that says who is eligible for federal student aid--without lengthy searching of the Website.
    Recommendation: To help college financial aid administrators more effectively implement eligibility rules for unaccompanied homeless youth, the Secretary of Education should make available an optional worksheet or form that college financial aid administrators can voluntarily use to document unaccompanied homeless youth status or encourage the use of existing forms that are available.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed that it would be helpful to make forms developed by outside organizations knowledgeable about homelessness issues available for financial aid administrators to use for documenting the status of unaccompanied homeless youth. Education also said that it plans to highlight the availability of these forms and provide guidance at its annual conference and in updates to the Federal Student Aid Handbook. Education noted that it will not endorse the use of a specific form but that it will highlight forms that already exist that may be useful to financial aid administrators. In 2017, Education reported that it is continuing its efforts to address the recommendation. We look forward to Education making such forms available for college financial aid administrators so that they can more effectively implement eligibility rules for unaccompanied homeless youth.
    Recommendation: To help homeless youth more easily access federal student aid, the Secretary of Education should clarify its guidance to financial aid administrators and students about whether financial aid administrators should accept any unaccompanied homeless youth determination provided by McKinney-Vento homeless liaisons or other authorized officials even if a student is not in high school or receiving program services.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, Education reported that it is continuing its efforts to address the recommendation. In June 2016, Education posted questions and answers about federal student for homeless youth on its website and in July, the agency posted a fact sheet about Homeless Youth on its webpage for teachers and other professional staff. However, neither document states whether financial aid administrators should accept any unaccompanied homeless youth determination provided by McKinney-Vento liaisons or authorized officials even if a student is not in high school or receiving program services. In July 2016, Education issued guidance for the McKinney-Vento program specifying that a local liaison may continue to provide verification of a youth's homelessness status for federal student aid purposes for as long as the liaison has access to the information necessary to make such a determination for a particular youth. The guidance also stated that local homelessness liaisons should ensure that all homeless high school students receive information and counseling on college-related issues. Education said that it will also hold a technical assistance webinar for McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program liaisons. In the 2017-18 Application and Verification Guide for financial aid administrators, Education clarified circumstances under which authorized officials may provide documentation of unaccompanied homelessness for a person who is no longer officially receiving services. The updated guide also noted that local homelessness liaisons may write subsequent year letters of verification for unaccompanied homeless youth through age 23 for whom they have the necessary information to write such letters and that this documentation is acceptable for verifying unaccompanied homelessness. The agency should also update the question and answer factsheet on federal student aid for homeless students so that the information on unaccompanied homeless youth determinations is presented consistently in these key documents.
    Recommendation: To enhance access to federal student aid for unaccompanied homeless youth, the Secretary of Education should consider developing a legislative proposal for congressional action to simplify the application process so that once a student has received an initial determination as an unaccompanied homeless youth, the student will not be required to have that status re-verified in subsequent years but attest to their current status on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, unless a financial aid administrator has conflicting information.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, Education reported that it is continuing its efforts to address the recommendation. In July 2016, Education said that the department had proposed further simplification of the FAFSA in its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal. Education stated that it will also consider the feasibility of a legislative proposal to not require re-verification of homelessness after a student has received an initial determination. Such a legislative proposal would enhance access to federal student aid for unaccompanied homeless youth.
    Recommendation: To simplify program rules for Chafee ETV vouchers and improve access to these vouchers for former foster youth ages 21 and 22, the Secretary of HHS should consider developing a legislative proposal for congressional action to allow foster youth to be eligible for the Chafee ETV voucher until age 23 without also requiring that they start using the voucher before they turn 21.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS's budget request for fiscal year 2018 does not contain a legislative proposal to improve access to Chafee vouchers for former foster youth ages 21 and 22. In July 2016, HHS noted that it had made a proposal for mandatory programs to improve foster youth's access to vouchers for title IV-E Chafee programs in the Administration for Children and Families' fiscal year 2017 budget request. However, the agency explained that the proposal's purpose is to extend eligibility for Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) services to youth up to age 23 in jurisdictions that have extended foster care to age 21. According to HHS, the budgetary proposal does not affect the Chafee Vouchers. A legislative proposal to simplify program rules for Chafee ETV vouchers would support improving access to these vouchers for former foster youth ages 21 and 22.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help address Education's strategic goal of providing superior customer service to borrowers, and to strengthen oversight of the Direct Loan program, the Secretary of Education should develop a minimum standard that specifies core call center operating hours to provide borrowers, including those on the West Coast, with improved access to servicers.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to establish core hours in the requirements for servicers to help borrowers access live customer service representatives. Education also noted that borrowers can use interactive voice response and web technology to access information from their servicers during periods when live operators are not available. While these are additional tools for borrowers, they do not replace the need for access to live representatives, and, as we note in the report, Education's customer satisfaction surveys of borrowers in 2014 and 2015 raised concerns about the usefulness of servicers' automated voice response systems. Establishing core call center hours in servicer requirements, if implemented as Education described, would meet the intent of the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help address Education's strategic goal of providing superior customer service to borrowers, and to strengthen oversight of the Direct Loan program, the Secretary of Education should ensure the new unified borrower complaint tracking system includes comprehensive and comparable information on the nature and status of borrower complaints made to both Education and servicers, to allow Education to track trends and better manage the program to effectively meet borrower needs.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that it will conduct communication and awareness campaigns to ensure borrowers know of the existence and purpose of the feedback system, which includes comprehensive and comparable information on the nature and status of borrower complaints about servicers. One of the communication channels used will be through the servicers. In addition, the agency reported that it will establish a common borrower experience and common branding in the requirements for the ongoing student loan servicing solicitation by, among other things, requiring the creation of a single web portal clearly labeled as representing the agency. Through that system, all borrowers will be ale to access information, make payments, apply for benefits and manage their accounts. When implemented, this new platform, in conjunction with FSA's Feedback System, will collect complaint information at FSA comprehensively.
    Recommendation: To help address Education's strategic goal of providing superior customer service to borrowers, and to strengthen oversight of the Direct Loan program, the Secretary of Education should evaluate and make needed adjustments to Direct Loan servicer performance metrics and compensation to improve assessment, including using baseline data, and alignment with Federal Student Aid's strategic goals aimed at superior customer service and program integrity, and to ensure that the assignment of new loans to servicers takes program compliance into account.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would evaluate existing and alternative performance metrics and compensation strategies as part of the ongoing student loan servicing procurement. The agency noted that the results of this evaluation, along with information gleaned form other market research conducted in the context of the procurement and proposals submitted by prospective vendors, will be reflected in future servicing contracts.
    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 in December 2017, that this recommendation would be implemented by September 2018. 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. GAO did not receive an update on this recommendation from DOJ in 2017.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To support the collection of complete and accurate safety and health information on the condition of BIE school facilities nationally, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to ensure that all BIE schools are annually inspected for safety and health, as required by its policy, and that inspection information is complete and accurate. This could include: (1) Analyzing the key challenges to ensuring that all BIE schools are inspected, as well as implementing a plan to mitigate those challenges. (2) In the interim, prioritizing inspections at schools where facility conditions may pose a greater risk to students--such as schools with dormitories or those that have not been recently inspected.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In September 2016, Indian Affairs reported that it had completed annual safety inspections at all BIE school locations for the first time in at least 15 years. In late August 2017, officials reported that Indian Affairs was on course to complete all inspections in 2017 but did not provide documentation on its progress. Further, Indian Affairs stated that it understands the need to ensure that completing school inspections does not detract from inspection quality. However, as of August 2017 we had not received documentation that the agency had taken steps to ensure that its safety personnel collect inspection information that is complete and accurate. We believe the steps Indian Affairs has taken to prioritize the completion of safety inspections at all BIE schools are important ones. However, we believe it is also important that the agency take specific steps to ensure that the inspection information it collects is complete and accurate. Without complete and accurate information, BIE schools may not have the information they need on potential safety hazards, which may endanger students and staff. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To support the collection of complete and accurate safety and health information on the condition of BIE school facilities nationally, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to revise its inspection guidance and tools to ensure that they are comprehensive and up-to-date; require that regional safety inspectors use them to ensure all vital areas are covered, such as school fire protection; and monitor safety inspectors' use of procedures and tools across regions to ensure they are consistently adopted.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2017, Indian Affairs implemented new comprehensive guidelines for safety and health inspections and testing and maintaining fire prevention systems. The guidelines, which we reviewed, detail specific inspection procedures which all relevant safety personnel are required to follow. Indian Affairs provided training in May and June of 2017 to relevant staff on using the guidelines. According to the guidelines, Indian Affairs' safety office is required to monitor safety staff compliance with the new inspection procedures. We believe these are important steps to ensuring that regional inspectors have clear procedures in place for conducting BIE school inspections. However, Indian Affairs has not provided us with documentation, such as a plan, for how its safety office will monitor inspections to ensure procedures are consistently followed by inspectors across regions. For example, such monitoring could help ensure that all inspectors conduct a close out meeting with relevant school staff at the conclusion of an on-site safety inspection. We believe such monitoring is important to ensure that the practices of its safety inspectors consistently align with its procedures and result in inspection information that is complete and accurate. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ensure that all BIE schools are positioned to address safety and health problems with their facilities and provide student environments that are free from hazards, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a plan to build schools' capacity to promptly address safety and health problems with facilities. Such a plan could prioritize assistance to schools to improve the expertise of facility staff to maintain and repair school buildings.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. As of late August 2017, Indian Affairs had not provided us any documentation that it had taken steps to implement our recommendation. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy, Defense, and Health and Human Services should develop detailed guidance to ensure that ORISE program coordinators, mentors, and research participants are fully informed of the prohibition on nonfederal employees performing inherently governmental functions.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017 DOD developed a terms of agreement to be signed by each mentor and research participant, in which they acknowledge that they fully understand the restrictions on performing inherently governmental functions. However, DOD intended the terms of agreement to be used by a subset of the ORISE research participants at DOD (those participating in the Science and Technology Policy Fellowships program). To fully address this recommendation, DOD needs to take similar action for ORISE research participants not participating in this program.
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy, Defense, and Health and Human Services should develop detailed guidance to ensure that ORISE program coordinators, mentors, and research participants are fully informed of the prohibition on nonfederal employees performing inherently governmental functions.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS had not provided information as of July 2017 on steps it has taken to address the recommendation.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To strengthen management of the Direct Loan Program and ensure good customer service for borrowers, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to review its methods of providing instructions and guidance to servicers, identifying areas to improve clarity and sufficiency, and ensure consistent delivery of instructions and guidance to ensure program integrity and improve service to borrowers. For example, the Department could consider implementing a detailed, common servicing manual for the Direct Loan program.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed with this recommendation and has reviewed its guidance to servicers, as of October 2016. It has issued clarifications to servicers in several areas. In addition, the Department had been in the process of an acquisition for a new loan servicing solution but, as of September 2017, is reassessing its acquisition strategy. While the plan for the revised acquisition is not finalized, FSA expects its approach to significantly streamline the process of communicating instructions and guidance to servicers, as well as improve the overall experience for students and borrowers. Upon resolution of its acquisition strategy, Education needs to demonstrate that its final contract for a new loan servicing solution is structured to provide clear and consistent instructions and guidance to servicers to ensure program integrity and improve service to borrowers.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should improve program management by expanding monitoring of available information on overpayment debts and collections. This could include regularly tracking the number and amount of overpayments created and the effectiveness of collection efforts.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA reported in March 2017 that the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Debt Management Center had recently developed a plan to track, analyze, and report on new measures of overpayments. This will include the number and amount of new overpayments, average debt per student, and the amount of uncollected debts outstanding. VA plans to include this information in a bi-annual report and use the data to identify trends and determine root causes of student and school debts. We will consider closing this recommendation once VA has produced the new reports and we have had an opportunity to review them.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should address overpayments resulting from enrollment changes by providing guidance to educate student veterans about their benefits and consequences of changing their enrollment.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA officials reported in June 2017 that the agency has drafted revisions to the initial and subsequent award letters issued to students. The draft letters that we reviewed included more detailed information on education benefits and the consequences of changes in enrollment and a link to a website with additional helpful information about student overpayment debts. VA officials said these revisions are pending approval and the new award letters should be implemented by December 2017 once the necessary IT resources are available. We will close this recommendation when we receive confirmation that these changes have been incorporated into the letters that are sent to beneficiaries.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should address overpayments resulting from enrollment changes by providing guidance to schools about the benefits of using a dual certification process where schools wait to certify the actual tuition and fee amounts until after the school's deadline for adding and dropping classes.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA reported in March 2017 that the agency sent school administrators an official letter in March 2017 asking them to use the dual certification process and to wait to certify actual tuition and fee amounts until after the school's deadline for adding and dropping classes. In addition, VA reported that it had discussed the dual certification method during a webinar with school administrators in June 2016. While these communications are helpful, we believe that VA should also update its guidance, such as its School Certifying Official Handbook, to include this information so that specific guidance on how dual certification can reduce tuition and fee overpayments is available on a continuing basis for current and future school certifying officials.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should address overpayments resulting from enrollment changes by identifying and implementing a cost-effective way to allow Post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiaries to verify their enrollment status each month, and require monthly reporting.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA officials reported in March 2017 that the agency is developing a plan to add functionality for monthly verifications of student enrollment to its information technology systems, as GAO recommended in its 2015 report. Officials said they expect to complete these upgrades by December 2017once the necessary IT resources requested by the Veterans Benefits Administration are provided.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should improve efforts to notify veterans and schools about overpayment debts by identifying and implementing other methods of notifying veterans and schools about debts to supplement the agency's mailed notices (e.g., email, eBenefits).

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA officials reported in March 2017 that the agency is developing a plan to update its IT systems so veterans could be notified of overpayment debts through eBenefits or by email. VA plans to complete this action by December 2017 once the necessary IT resources are available.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should improve efforts to notify veterans and schools about overpayment debts by including information on both the cause of the debt and how to repay it in debt letters.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA agreed with our recommendation and reported in March 2017 that it is working on a plan to include school term dates on debt notification letters sent to schools. VA also plans to review and modify the initial debt letters sent to students and schools to include information on both the cause of the debt and how to repay the debt. VA plans to complete these actions by December 2017 once the necessary IT resources are available.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should revise policy for calculating overpayments to increase collections by prorating tuition overpayments when veterans reduce their enrollment during the term based on the actual date of the enrollment change rather than paying additional benefits through the end of the month during which the reduction occurred.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA officials reported in March 2017 that the agency is revising its tuition overpayment regulations, as GAO recommended in its 2015 report. VA officials said these proposed regulatory revisions are going through the internal approval process, which is expected to be completed by October 2017.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure it is recovering the full amount of tuition and fee payments if a school does not charge a veteran for any tuition or fees after dropping a class or withdrawing from school. For example, VA could adjust its overpayment calculation to account for these situations or provide schools with guidance on how to account for school refund policies when reporting enrollment and tuition changes.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA officials reported in March 2017 that the agency plans to amend its procedures to account for school refund policies when calculating veterans' overpayment debts, as GAO recommended in its 2015 report. VA officials said they plan to publish this information in the School Certifying Official Handbook and notify schools and student veterans about the change. However, officials also reported that the agency needs to address several issues with its information technology systems before these changes can be made. Officials said they expect to complete these upgrades by December 2017 once the necessary IT resources requested by the Veterans Benefits Administration are provided.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen states' monitoring and facilitate local MOE compliance, the Secretary of Education should prioritize technical assistance and information sharing across states on ways to facilitate local MOE compliance with respect to the use of the four calculation methods and the exceptions.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2016, Education officials reported that the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has been working on guidance on local educational agency maintenance of effort (LEA MOE) and intends to issue an expanded question and answer document by the end of 2016. In addition, the officials reported that the OSEP-funded Center for Idea Fiscal Reporting (CIFR) has taken additions steps, including creating an LEA MOE calculator projected for publication in fall 2016. GAO anticipates closing this recommendation when these activities have been implemented.
    Recommendation: To help districts address key challenges in meeting MOE and mitigate unintended consequences that may affect services for students with disabilities, while preserving the safeguard for funding for students with disabilities, Congress should consider options for a more flexible MOE requirement. This could include adopting a less stringent MOE requirement to align with the MOE requirements in other education programs or adding to or modifying exceptions. For example, current exceptions could be changed to allow one-time increases in spending without changing a district's MOE baseline in order to encourage pilot innovations or to allow certain spending decreases (e.g., state caps on teacher benefits), as long as a district can demonstrate the decrease does not negatively affect services.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress has not taken legislative action on this issue.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that Income-Based Repayment, Pay As You Earn, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness serve their intended beneficiaries to the greatest extent possible, the Secretary of Education should take steps to consistently and regularly notify all borrowers who have entered repayment of income-driven repayment plan options, including Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education generally concurred with our recommendation, stating that it is committed to ensuring that federal student loan borrowers have the information they need to manage their debt, including details regarding income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs. However, Education stated that it is not clear that providing information on repayment options to all borrowers is the most efficient or effective way to achieve this goal. Beginning in 2015, Education directed its loan servicers to start sending detailed income-driven repayment information, such as projected monthly payment amounts and total amounts paid over the life of the loan under each plan, on a quarterly basis to all borrowers who are in school or in the 6-month grace period after leaving school. Education reported that in 2016 its loan servicers also began sending an email to borrowers in the fifth month of their grace period with information about applying for income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Education also reported that in December 2016 it began sending emails about the Revised Pay As You Earn plan directly to certain groups of borrowers, including those who expressed interest in income-driven plans during exit counseling, were less than 227 days delinquent, or had Federal Family Education Loans. While these are positive steps, we maintain it is important for Education to notify all borrowers in repayment of these options to support its goal to provide superior information and service to borrowers.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should develop a risk-based, cost-effective strategy to verify that states are implementing a process for assessing whether any teacher preparation programs are low-performing.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported adding additional questions about states' processes for identifying low-performing and at-risk programs to its annual state data collection form. The Department reported that this revised data collection form was submitted to OMB in April 2016 and was still undergoing OMB review as of September 2017. In the meantime, Education reported that it is conducting a temporary risk-based monitoring approach to determine how states report information on low-performing teacher preparation programs. GAO will monitor Education's efforts to finalize and implement these initiatives.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should study the usefulness of Title II data elements for policymakers and practitioners, and, if warranted, develop a proposal for Congress to eliminate or revise any statutorily-required elements that are not providing meaningful information.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that its regulations published in October 2016 included new Title II data elements related to program quality. However, this action is distinct from our recommendation to assess whether existing fields required by law should be eliminated or revised. During our review, Education officials noted that such data elements could only be eliminated or revised through legislation, rather than regulation. Therefore, we continue to believe that it would be valuable for Education to review the existing data elements required by law and submit a proposal to Congress to eliminate or revise any of these fields, if warranted.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should develop and implement mechanisms to systematically share information about teacher preparation program quality with relevant Department of Education program offices and states (including state Independent Standards Boards).

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that, subject to available staff resources, the agency would be designing an internal work group to increase information-sharing about teacher preparation program quality within and outside the Department. As of August 2017, ED reported that actions on this recommendation were pending. GAO will monitor Education's continued steps to design and implement this working group.
    Director: David Gootnick
    Phone: (202) 512-3149

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve USAID's ability to measure progress in achieving a quantitative reading goal in any future education strategy, the Acting USAID Administrator should ensure that the future strategy includes targets that will allow USAID to monitor interim progress toward its goal in comparison with planned performance.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: In written comments on the report, USAID agreed to implement GAO's recommendation. USAID told GAO in August 2015 that a new Education Strategy will continue to focus on primary grade reading through 2020. The current strategy was scheduled to end in December 2015. USAID noted that as it expands its body of knowledge surrounding achievements of current reading projects, it will be better able to set achievable project and country level targets and report interim progress toward the new strategy's aggregate primary grade reading goal. USAID announced on August 28, 2017 that it has extended the 2011-2015 Education Strategy until December 2017, to allow adequate time for development of a new strategy with "the full backing and ownership of the new Administration." This recommendation will be applicable once USAID establishes a new strategy with new targets. According to a USAID official, as of September 14, 2017, the current strategy remains extended through December 2017. We will continue to monitor this recommendation.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that states are better able to sustain RTT reforms and that Education can effectively support other grant programs managed by the Office of State Support, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of State Support to fully implement and incorporate into its coordinated technical assistance policies and procedures the types of support that would be useful in sustaining RTT reforms and providing effective support to grantees in other programs supporting education reform that the Office of State Support oversees. These could include: (1) providing individualized technical assistance to states, such as that currently provided by Education program officers; (2) facilitating communities of practice to promote opportunities for collaboration across states; (3) providing professional development (or training) throughout the grant period, as opposed to only during the early stages of the grant; (4) making training more easily accessible by conducting training locally in their respective states, when possible; and (5) to the extent permissible in the context of federal and state requirements and restrictions, exploring the possibility of assisting states in identifying skilled contractors to help implement reform efforts.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2015, Education stated that the Office of State Support drafted a technical assistance plan that is being revised based on stakeholder input. Officials stated that the technical assistance plan addresses all of the suggestions included in our recommendation. In September 2017, Education provided a "Draft Conceptual Framework for OSS Technical Assistance Plan" dated March 2016, which the agency confirmed to be a final version. However, this document is a plan that does not show the activities were actually implemented. We will consider closing this recommendation when the agency provides documentation that the activities have been completed.
    Director: Michael Courts
    Phone: (202) 512-8980

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish a mechanism to ensure that sponsors provide complete and consistent lists of fees that participants must pay.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish a mechanism to ensure that sponsor provide complete and consistent lists of fees that exchange visitors on the Summer Work Travel program must pay, State acknowledged it collected such fee information in 2016. As of August 3, 2017, we are awaiting State's review and analysis of this information to ensure the price lists are consistent and comprehensive.
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish a mechanism to establish a mechanism to ensure that information about these participant fees is made publicly available.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish a mechanism to ensure that information about Summer Work Travel participant fees is made publically available, State noted that it had published a notice for proposed rulemaking on January 12, 2017. When finalized, this would require would require each sponsor to include in its recruiting material, and post on its main Web site (e.g., with a visible link to such a page on the sponsor?s homepage), examples of the typical monthly budgets of exchange visitors placed in various regions of the United States to illustrate wages (based on the required weekly minimum of 32-hours of work at a typical host placement) balanced against itemized fees and estimated costs. Until State finalizes this rule, they cannot enforce this requirement. As of July 27, 2017, this information was not available to the public on the six sponsor websites we checked.
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish detailed criteria that will allow State to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of opportunities for cultural activities outside the workplace that sponsors provide to SWT participants.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish detailed criteria that will allow it to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of opportunities for cultural activities outside the workplace that sponsors provide to Summer Work Travel participants, State published a notice for proposed rulemaking on January 12, 2017. When finalized, this would require sponsors and their host entities to create cultural opportunities at least once per month. The proposed rule also notes that State will issue guidance outlining best practices for cross-cultural programming. As of July 27, 2017 this is not finalized.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    4 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a comprehensive workforce plan to ensure that BIE has an adequate number of staff with the requisite knowledge and skills to effectively oversee BIE school expenditures.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2017, the Bureau of Indian Education(BIE) Director reported that an internal working group would draft a comprehensive workforce plan that is aligned with BIE's strategic plan. They did not specify whether such a plan would include a focus on BIE administrative offices responsible for oversight of school expenditures. In late August 2017, BIE officials indicated that they would revisit the strategic workforce planning effort by Indian Affairs. They did not provide further information on what actions BIE will take to address this recommendation. However, the BIE Director noted in May of this year that the agency planned to complete its work on this recommendation no later than the end of 2018. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a process to share relevant information, such as single audit reports, with all BIE staff responsible for overseeing school expenditures to ensure they have the necessary information to identify schools at risk for misusing funds.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In late August 2017, agency officials reported that it had developed and implemented a SharePoint-based system for sharing single audit reports to ensure that all key staff have access to this system. The agency is exploring other technological options for providing staff with access to single audit reports. The BIE Director noted in May of this year that the agency planned to complete its work on this recommendation no later than the end of 2018. While this is a step in the right direction, as we have communicated to BIE officials, the SharePoint system includes audit reports on fewer than half of all tribally-operated schools. Such reports are a vital source of information for monitoring how schools use federal funds. Without relevant BIE staff having access to audit reports for the majority of tribally-operated schools, it is unclear to us how such a system can support effective oversight of spending at these schools. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop written procedures for BIE to oversee expenditures for major programs, including Interior's Indian School Equalization Program. These procedures should include requirements for staff to consistently document their monitoring activities and actions they have taken to resolve financial weaknesses identified at schools.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In response to our report, Interior stated that BIE already had written procedures in place related to the Indian School Equalization Program (ISEP). However, we found the procedures did not relate to overseeing schools' ISEP expenditures. In late August 2017, agency officials reported taking several steps to address this recommendation. In particular, officials reported that the agency had drafted written procedures for overseeing BIE school spending. However, these officials noted that further review and revision to the procedures are necessary before they can be finalized and implemented. Officials did not provide us with a draft of the procedures to review. The BIE Director noted in May of this year that the agency planned to complete its work on this recommendation by the middle of 2019. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a risk-based approach to oversee BIE school expenditures to focus BIE's monitoring activities on schools that auditors have found to be at the greatest risk of misusing federal funds.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In late August 2017, agency officials reported that they had begun drafting a risk assessment policy and procedures for monitoring BIE school expenditures. However, they noted that further review and revision to the policy is necessary before it can be finalized and implemented. Officials did not provide us with a draft of these documents to review. The BIE Director noted in May of this year that the agency planned to complete its work on this recommendation by the middle of 2019. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    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: In March 2017, VA reported that it is continuing to work on a new website to help improve the accessibility and usefulness of its educational counseling services, especially for prospective student veterans. VA noted that it is continuing its process of transitioning to a new website, vets.gov, which is not yet fully operational. VA has estimated that the new website will be fully operational by the end of September 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.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to improve grantees' planning and implementation efforts, increase the effectiveness of grantee efforts to integrate and manage resources, and learn more about the program's impact, the Secretary of Education should clarify program guidance about planning and implementation grants to provide reasonable assurance that planning grantees are better prepared to continue their efforts in the absence of implementation funding. Additional guidance could include encouraging grantees to set aside a small amount of the grant to identify and deliver early, tangible benefits to their neighborhoods.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would communicate to planning grant applicants that implementation funding is contingent on the availability of funds and that it would clarify to grantees that planning grant funds could be used to achieve early, tangible benefits. However, Education has not awarded any new planning grants since 2012. In FY17, ED reported that if new funding becomes available for the Promise Neighborhoods' planning and implementation awards, the Department will emphasize to all interested applicants that grant awards are contingent on the availability of funds and the results of the competitive award process. Education also stated that it would provide more targeted technical assistance to planning grant recipients regarding strategies for continuing grantees' efforts absent implementation funding. In 2015, its technical assistance provider published information on planning for growth and sustainability of Promise Neighborhoods.
    Recommendation: In order to improve grantees' planning and implementation efforts, increase the effectiveness of grantee efforts to integrate and manage resources, and learn more about the program's impact, the Secretary of Education should develop and disseminate to grantees on an ongoing basis an inventory of federal programs and resources that can contribute to the Promise Neighborhoods program's goal to better support coordination across agency lines.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would work with its technical assistance providers to create a mechanism to distribute a comprehensive list of external funding opportunities, programs and resources on a regular basis to better support the grantees' implementation efforts. In FY15, ED reported that the program office held a grantee meeting in July 2015 featuring at least three workshops on sustainability and leveraging additional funding sources. The program office also had a website (promiseneighborhoods.ed.gov) with a number of resources under the "toolbox" tab that can assist interested programs in financing their ongoing needs. While the workshops and web resources were good first steps that can assist grantees, GAO maintains that Education, rather than individual grantees, is best positioned to develop and share such an inventory of federal programs that relate to the goals of the Promise Neighborhoods program. Without such an inventory, Education may be missing opportunities to better support grantees; find other federal program for future coordination efforts; and identify potential fragmentation, overlap and duplication at the federal level. In FY17, Education did not provide any updates on this recommendation, nor has it provided such an inventory.
    Recommendation: In order to improve grantees' planning and implementation efforts, increase the effectiveness of grantee efforts to integrate and manage resources, and learn more about the program's impact, the Secretary of Education should develop a plan to use the data collected from grantees to conduct a national evaluation of the program.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would consider options for how and whether it can use the data collected from grantees to conduct a national evaluation. As a first step, Education said it would conduct a systematic evaluation of the reliability and validity of the data. In its 2016 Notice of Funding Availability for Implementation Grants, Education acknowledged that grantees have struggled to collect the full range of data necessary to conduct meaningful evaluation activities and emphasized the importance of helping grantees develop robust data systems. In addition, in its agency comments, Education had stated that it had not received sufficient funding to support a national evaluation. In FY2017, ED provided documentation of its request for funding for conducting an evaluation and the response to the request. However, the entity within ED that is responsible for impact evaluations maintains that it has no plans to conduct an impact evaluation, given that grantees were not randomly selected. GAO agrees that the program was not designed for impact evaluation, however, as we reported, there are other options for evaluating such programs that can provide meaningful information about how well grantees are addressing the problem of poor student outcomes in impoverished neighborhoods. Not evaluating the program limits Education and other agencies from learning about the extent to which model is effective and should be replicated. Developing an evaluation plan would provide critical information about the resources required to conduct an evaluation, and could better inform future funding requests for such an evaluation.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure DSOs' and students' compliance with OPT requirements, and strengthen efforts to identify and assess potential risks in OPT, the Director of ICE should direct SEVP to develop and distribute guidance to DSOs on how to determine whether a job is related to a student's area of study and require DSOs to provide information in SEVIS to show that they took steps, based on this guidance, to help ensure that the student's work is related to the area of study.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2015, SEVP has made progress in developing employment guidance to support DSOs in determining whether a job is related to a student's area of study and requiring DSOs to provide such information in SEVIS. SEVP stated that it has drafted such guidance and it is being reviewed by SEVP subject matter experts. In addition, SEVP stated that it is developing information requirements for DSOs to attest that they adhered to the new employment guidance document in SEVIS, which requires system enhancements. In May 2016, the new STEM OPT regulation went into effect and, among other things, SEVP officials stated that it requires much greater detail on the scope of the employment and how it is related to the earned degree. As of October 2016, SEVP expects that non-STEM guidance on field of study would be finalized by the second quarter of fiscal year 2017. In May 2017, SEVP officials stated they had been revising the guidance and that it was undergoing final revisions, as planned. However, according to SEVP officials, due to the Executive Order on regulatory reform, ICE guidance updates were placed on hold with no clear date as to when SEVP would be able to publish the guidance. To fully address this recommendation, ICE should develop and distribute non-STEM-related guidance on determining whether a job is related to a student's area of study and require DSOs to provide relevant information in SEVIS.
    Director: St James, Lorelei
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As part of the development of a national maritime strategy and a national freight strategic plan, the Secretary of Transportation should direct MARAD--in consultation with maritime industry stakeholders--to study and identify any potential problems in ensuring that U.S. mariners are adequately trained to meet the needs of the entire maritime industry, including the domestic waterways. Public forums, such as MARAD's roundtable discussions, could serve as a means for gaining industry input on potential training issues.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: On April 7, 2017 GAO requested an update on the status of MARAD's position on whether or not the recommendation would be implemented. In June 2016, MARAD indicated that it had not made this determination. In response to GAO's latest inquiry, MARAD indicated that it was in the process of checking on whether any action had been taken within the agency to implement the recommendation.
    Director: Brown, Kay E
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to help inform federal, state, and local initiatives to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse by school personnel, the Secretary of Education should lead an effort, in collaboration with the Secretary of HHS and the Attorney General, to leverage resources, expertise, and capacities across the departments to determine the most cost-effective way to disseminate federal information so that relevant state and local educational agencies, child welfare agencies, and criminal justice entities are aware of and have access to it.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2016, the Department of Education reported that on November 16, 2015, the Office of Safe and Healthy Students within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education convened a meeting with federal partners to explore ways in which the agencies can better support states and to devise dissemination strategies for sharing information and providing technical assistance in the most cost- effective ways to state and local educational agencies and child welfare agencies, and ensure that resources are accessible to the various stakeholders. It noted several next steps including creating and implementing a Federal dissemination plan for the new adult sexual misconduct guidance, repository of federal resources, and for information on all state-level mandates and policies addressing adult sexual misconduct in schools. GAO will consider this recommendation closed when the department provides timelines for the completion of these activities and documentation of their completion. The agency did not provide an update on the agency's progress in FY17.
    Recommendation: In order to help inform federal, state, and local initiatives to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse by school personnel, the Secretary of Education should lead an effort, in collaboration with the Secretary of HHS and the Attorney General, to leverage resources, expertise, and capacities across the departments to identify mechanisms to better track and analyze the prevalence of child sexual abuse by school personnel through existing federal data collection systems, such as the School Survey on Crime and Safety, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, and the National Crime Victimization Survey.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education reported that experts within the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) consulted with research partners in the Department of Justice and academic research experts to determine if an effective item or item set about this important issue could be derived. After review of extant sources and consultation with item development experts, a clear question that would result in meaningful information from school administrator respondents could not be developed. They also noted that they understand there is continuing interest on this issue and will continue studying item possibilities for the next School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) provided the collection is funded. As of May 2016, NCES does not have funds to field SSOCS after 2016, but there is a request in the 2016 budget to support a 2018 collection. GAO will consider this recommendation closed when the department has taken the above mentioned action to continue studying item possibilities for the next SSOCS if the collection is funded. The agency did not provide an update on the agency's progress in FY17.
    Director: Farrell, Brenda S
    Phone: (202) 512-3604

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that OSD, the military services, and congressional decision makers have a comprehensive understanding of whether ROTC programs are achieving desired results in a cost-effective and efficient manner, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the military services, to establish a systematic process to routinely evaluate ROTC program performance that includes establishing performance measures that are clearly defined and include cost components.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2016, this recommendation is addressed in the current working draft of Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1215.08, "Senior Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Programs." A joint Services and DOD working group has finalized updates addressing this recommendation in the draft instruction, but DOD anticipates formal coordination will be delayed until after the 2017 change in the Presidential Administration. This recommendation will remain open until the DoDI addressing this recommendation has been finalized and published.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that OSD, the military services, and congressional decision makers have a comprehensive understanding of whether ROTC programs are achieving desired results in a cost-effective and efficient manner, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the military services, to establish a systematic process to routinely evaluate ROTC program performance that includes requiring routine evaluations of ROTC programs that measure progress against the strategic goals and objectives of ROTC programs.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2016, this recommendation is addressed in the current working draft of Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1215.08, "Senior Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Programs." A joint Services and DOD working group has finalized updates addressing this recommendation in the draft instruction, but DOD anticipates formal coordination will be delayed until after the 2017 change in the Presidential Administration. This recommendation will remain open until the DoDI addressing this recommendation has been finalized and published.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that OSD, the military services, and congressional decision makers have a comprehensive understanding of whether ROTC programs are achieving desired results in a cost-effective and efficient manner, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the military services, to establish a systematic process to routinely evaluate ROTC program performance that includes using the performance information resulting from ROTC program evaluations to assess and document the need for the existing number of units,

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2016, this recommendation is addressed in the current working draft of Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1215.08, "Senior Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Programs." A joint Services and DOD working group has finalized updates addressing this recommendation in the draft instruction, but DOD anticipates formal coordination will be delayed until after the 2017 change in the Presidential Administration. The Services have reviewed and adjusted their current procedures and metrics to better measure and evaluate their ROTC programs prior to the projected DoDI publication date. This recommendation will remain open until the DoDI addressing this recommendation has been finalized and published.
    Recommendation: To help improve the oversight and accountability of the military services' ROTC programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to reexamine and clarify DOD Instruction 1215.08 to clearly delineate roles and responsibilities for oversight of ROTC programs.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2016, this recommendation is addressed in the current working draft of Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1215.08, "Senior Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Programs." A joint Services and DOD working group has finalized updates addressing this recommendation in the draft instruction, but DOD anticipates formal coordination will be delayed until after the 2017 change in the Presidential Administration. This recommendation will remain open until the DoDI addressing this recommendation has been finalized and published.
    Recommendation: To help improve the oversight and accountability of the military services' ROTC programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to coordinate with the military services to ensure that service ROTC guidance aligns with the updated DOD instruction.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2016, this recommendation is addressed in the current working draft of Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1215.08, "Senior Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Programs." A joint Services and DOD working group has finalized updates addressing this recommendation in the draft instruction, but DOD anticipates formal coordination will be delayed until after the 2017 change in the Presidential Administration. The Services have reviewed and adjusted their current procedures and metrics to better measure and evaluate their ROTC programs prior to the projected DoDI publication date. This recommendation will remain open until the DoDI addressing this recommendation has been finalized and published.
    Recommendation: To help improve the oversight and accountability of the military services' ROTC programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop and implement, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the military services, a strategy to periodically communicate with Congress and other key stakeholders on ROTC program performance.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2016, this recommendation is addressed in the current working draft of Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1215.08, "Senior Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Programs." A joint Services and DOD working group has finalized updates addressing this recommendation in the draft instruction, but DOD anticipates formal coordination will be delayed until after the 2017 change in the Presidential Administration. This recommendation will remain open until the DoDI addressing this recommendation has been finalized and published.
    Director: Scott, George A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop and implement decision-making procedures for BIE that specify who should be involved in the decision-making process for key decisions that affect BIE and its schools to ensure that BIE has effective management controls, is accountable for the use of federal funds, and comports with federal laws and regulations. Such procedures should be clearly documented in management directives, administrative policies, or operating manuals.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) officials stated that they have developed decision-making procedures for BIE in consultation with staff from across the bureau. They indicated that the procedures will be implemented in the coming weeks, pending final approval from the Office of Regulatory Affairs and Collaborative Action and the Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs. We reviewed Indian Affairs' draft procedures, which they plan to incorporate into Indian Affairs' policy manual. The procedures identify, by position, BIE leaders whose involvement in the decision-making process is necessary and define roles and responsibilities of such individuals, among other areas. We will consider whether Indian Affairs' actions fully address this recommendation once the agency provides us with its finalized procedures.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a strategic plan that includes detailed goals and strategies for BIE and for those offices that support BIE's mission, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to help Indian Affairs effectively implement its realignment. Development of the strategic plan should incorporate feedback from BIE officials and other key stakeholders. To gather stakeholder input, we recommend that the plan include a comprehensive communications strategy to improve communication within Indian Affairs and between Indian Affairs and BIE staff.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, Indian Affairs officials stated that the draft strategic plan for BIE developed by the agency several years ago did not address our recommendation. Officials also told us they began holding strategic planning sessions in March 2017, which they said would continue through late September 2017. Indian Affairs drafted several key elements of its new strategic plan for BIE. The draft includes information on its mission, vision, values and goals. According to agency officials, they are currently developing additional elements to include milestones, measures, and specific action plans. Officials also noted that BIE has reached out to external subject matter expert organizations, such as the Council of Chief State School Officers, in developing its strategic plan. Officials reported they expect to implement the new plan no later than the end of calendar year 2017. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to revise its strategic workforce plan to ensure that employees providing administrative support to BIE have the requisite knowledge and skills to help BIE achieve its mission and are placed in the appropriate offices to ensure that regions with a large number of BIE schools have sufficient support.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Although BIE completed a strategic workforce planning effort in 2016, the agency has not fully addressed this recommendation. We will monitor the agency's efforts to finish implementing this recommendation.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To provide federal policymakers information on the relative effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures, the Secretary of Education should take advantage of opportunities presented by recent and anticipated substantive program changes to sponsor and conduct evaluative research into the effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures at improving student outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) has made some progress toward sponsoring and conducting evaluative research into the effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures at improving student outcomes, as GAO recommended. For example, in June 2014, Education signed an agreement with the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to share data for the purpose of policy development and research. In particular, the agreement allows the agencies to coordinate their data to understand the relationship between Title IV student aid and tax benefits, and to model the effects of potential policy changes. Education officials noted the office of Federal Student Aid is also working with Treasury to generate outcomes data by institution and make that information publicly available. In June 2016, Education officials stated their website would be updated with these new data by the end of the year. In addition, in fiscal year 2014 Education launched the Enterprise Data Warehouse and Analytics (EDW&A) project to provide internal and external stakeholders, including researchers, timely and accurate access to centralized Federal Student Aid data and analytic tools. Education officials said that the agency is in the process of improving EDW&A for a variety of purposes, including research on Title IV program effectiveness. In July 2016, through the Education Research Grants competition, Education's Institute of Education Sciences awarded two grants to researchers looking at the impact of interventions related to applying for federal student aid on college enrollment, attendance, and degree completion. While sponsoring this research represents an important step toward understanding specific financial aid interventions, Education has identified a critical research gap in the area of linking higher education financing to student outcomes, and more evaluative research may be necessary to strengthen the evidence related to key federal strategies and programs. As of May 2017, although Education awarded several grants to evaluate the effectiveness of higher education programs and interventions, most of the studies do not focus on federal assistance. GAO encourages Education to ensure that its data-sharing and future grant efforts result in actively sponsoring or conducting evaluative research on federal higher education assistance programs, and make plans to use the information in future policymaking, as appropriate. Making these data-sharing and research efforts a priority will help policymakers make fact-based decisions on the merits and value of various federal assistance efforts. To fully implement this recommendation, Education needs to ensure that its efforts result in evaluating the effectiveness of Title IV programs and federal higher education tax expenditures.