oversight

Observations on the Department of Education's Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-07-20.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

United States General Accounting Office                                                                  Health, Education, and
Washington, D.C. 20548                                                                                  Human Services Division




                 B-282717

                 July 20, 1999

                 The Honorable Dick Armey
                 Majority Leader
                 House of Representatives

                 The Honorable Dan Burton
                 Chairman, Committee on Government Reform
                 House of Representatives

                 The Honorable Fred Thompson
                 Chairman, Committee on Governmental Affairs
                 United States Senate

                 Subject: Observations on the Department of Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan

                 As you requested, we have reviewed and evaluated the fiscal year 2000 performance plans for
                 the 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies that were submitted to the Congress as
                 required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (Results Act). Enclosure I
                 to this letter provides our observations on the fiscal year 2000 performance plan for the
                 Department of Education. Enclosure II lists management challenges we and Education’s
                 Inspector General identified that face the agency and the applicable goals and measures in
                 the fiscal year 2000 annual performance plan.

                 Our objectives were to (1) assess the usefulness of the agency’s plan for decisionmaking and
                 (2) identify the degree of improvement the agency’s fiscal year 2000 performance plan
                 represents over its fiscal year 1999 plan. Our observations were generally based on the
                 requirements of the Results Act, guidance to agencies from the Office of Management and
                 Budget (OMB) for developing the plan (OMB Circular A-11, Part 2), our previous reports and
                 knowledge of Education's operations and programs, and our observations on Education’s
                 fiscal year 1999 performance plan. Our summary report on the CFO Act agencies’ fiscal year
                                                                                                       1
                 2000 plans contains a complete discussion of our objectives, scope, and methodology.



                 1
                  Managing for Results: Opportunities for Continued Improvements in Agencies’ Performance Plans (GAO/GGDAIMD-99-215, July
                 20, 1999).




                 Page 1                                           GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
B-282717


As agreed, unless you announce the contents of this letter earlier, we plan no further
distribution until 30 days from the date of the letter. The major contributors to this report are
listed in enclosure III. Please call me at (202) 512-7215 if you or your staff have any
questions.




Cynthia M. Fagnoni
Director, Education, Workforce, and
  Income Security Issues


Enclosures - 3




Page 2                                  GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I

Observations on the Department of
Education's Performance Plan for
Fiscal Year 2000
Education’s fiscal year 2000 annual performance plan provides (1) a general picture of
intended performance across the agency, (2) a general discussion of strategies and resources
the agency will use to achieve its goals, and (3) general confidence that agency performance
information will be credible. For example, most performance indicators in the plan include
baseline or trend data and projections against which to assess performance. Similarly, the
description of each objective includes a discussion of how external factors, such as the level
of state and local funding for schools, will affect Education’s ability to achieve the objective.
Figure 1 highlights the plan’s major strengths and key weaknesses as Education seeks to
make additional improvements to its plan.

Figure 1: Major Strengths and Key Weaknesses of Fiscal Year 2000 Annual Performance Plan

Major Strengths
• Performance objectives and indicators are generally objective, measurable, and
quantifiable.
• Baseline or trend data for most performance indicators are included.
• Need to coordinate with other federal agencies is discussed.
• Role of external factors on ability to achieve objectives is discussed.
• Data limitations and measures to verify the reliability of performance measures are
described.
• Specific validation and verification efforts are described.
• How evaluations will be used to supplement for performance measurement shortcomings is
shown.

Key Weaknesses
• Some performance measures do not sufficiently cover key aspects of performance.
• Coordination of specific programs with similar programs in other agencies or
complimentary performance goals and measures are not discussed.
• Separate discussions of how capital assets, mission critical management systems, or human
capital will support achievement of program results are not included.
• How some data limitations will be resolved is not indicated.

The Department of Education’s fiscal year 2000 performance plan shows moderate
improvement in addressing the weaknesses we identified in our assessment of its fiscal year
1999 plan. In reviewing the 1999 plan, we observed that it (l) did not provide a complete
picture of the intended performance of its programs, (2) did not fully discuss how strategies
and resources would help achieve its performance goals, and (3) did not provide sufficient
confidence that its elementary and secondary education performance information would be
credible. Among the most important improvements, the fiscal year 2000 plan




Page 3                                  GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of Education's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




• includes baselines or trend data for most performance indicators (for example, half of the
98 indicators in Education’s fiscal year 2000 plan have both baseline and trend data and about
90 percent now have baseline data);

•identifies within individual program performance plans the strategic objectives the program
                                                                              1


supports;

• adds discussions of how external factors impact each objective (for example, many of the
key strategies for each objective in the plan discuss how Education will work with nonfederal
partners to focus on results and minimize administrative burdens);

• rewrites some key strategies to more closely show their relationship to the objective they
support;

• adds more detailed discussion of Education’s strategies and timelines for improving its
performance information (for example, Education’s plan provides specific strategies and
timelines for improving the efficiency and quality of the student aid delivery system); and

• discusses the data limitations for 97 of the 98 total performance indicators.

Education’s Performance Plan Provides a General Picture of
Intended Performance Across the Agency
Education’s plan provides a general picture of intended performance across the agency. For
the most part, the performance indicators Education established are objective, measurable,
and quantifiable. Further, the indicators often relate to and can adequately show progress
towards meeting the performance objectives and goals. Baseline or trend data are shown for
most indicators and many compare past performance or accomplishment with projected
future performance or accomplishment. Typical of this is an indicator that the number of
charter schools operating nationally will increase to 3,000 by the year 2002. A bar graph
displays steady increases from 100 charter schools in the 1994-95 academic year to a
projected 3,400 in the 2002-03 academic year.

However, we found that some of the agency’s performance measures do not sufficiently
cover key aspects of performance. For example, one objective states that all children should
enter school ready to learn. However, none of the three performance indicators used to
assess progress defines “ready to learn.” One indicator for this objective is that kindergarten


1
    Education’s performance plan includes a separate volume that shows the performance plans for each program in its budget.




Page 4                                                 GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of Education's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




and first-grade teachers will increasingly report that their students enter school ready to learn
reading and math. Again, no standard of what is meant by “ready to learn” is discussed. In
addition, some indicators do not adequately distinguish the role of Education’s programs in
achieving results from the role of nonfederal participants, such as local school districts, in
education performance. For example, one objective states that a talented and dedicated
teacher should be in every classroom in America. Education uses indicators that measure
overall teacher qualification and competency, such as annual increases in the number of
nationally board-certified teachers. None of the six indicators for assessing progress include
any measures of the contributions of teacher training programs funded by Education for
improvements in teaching.

To varying degrees, the fiscal year 2000 plan addresses major mission-critical management
problems at Education. There are separate objectives targeted at resolving problems with
information systems, financial integrity, flexibility for program participants while maintaining
accountability, and employee performance. Enclosure II shows how the plan addresses the
major management challenges we and Education’s Inspector General have identified.

Nearly all objectives include a discussion of the coordination Education will need with other
federal agencies to achieve the objective and, in general terms, describes the issues or efforts
that require this coordination. But the plan does not identify or describe common or
complementary performance goals and measures elsewhere in the federal government that
relate to Education’s goals and measures, nor do the individual program performance plans
discuss coordination or complimentary goals and measures. For example, in describing its
coordination strategies and activities with Health and Human Services’ Head Start program as
part of its objective that all children enter school ready to learn, Education did not explain
how this objective or its performance indicators compared with or would be coordinated
with the objectives or indicators for the Head Start program.

The fiscal year 2000 performance plan indicates some degree of progress in addressing the
weaknesses that we identified in our assessment of the fiscal year 1999 performance plan. In
reviewing the fiscal year 1999 plan, we observed that, while many of the performance goals
and measures in the agencywide performance plan were generally objective, measurable,
quantifiable, many in the individual program performance plans were not. For example, many
of the performance measures for individual programs lacked quantifiable baselines or
targeted levels of performance for the fiscal year which could hinder Education’s ability to
assess its performance. Also, we noted that Education could more directly link the goals and
measures in the individual program performance plans with its strategic objectives. Among
improvements in the fiscal year 2000 plan are the inclusion of baseline and trend data for a
greater number of the performance indicators and the identification in the performance plan
for each budgeted program of the strategic plan objectives that the program supports.




Page 5                                        GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of Education's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




Education’s Performance Plan Generally Addresses the
Strategies and Resources It Will Use to Achieve Its Goals
Education’s plan provides a general discussion of the strategies and resources the
Department will use to achieve its performance goals. It contains a separate appendix that
generally relates each of Education’s budgeted program activities to one or more strategic
plan goals and objectives. However, we found program activities that were not included in
the appendix—in particular, the departmental management account that funds agency
operations. Another plan appendix shows the funding and staffing resources associated with
each objective but it does not explain how these resource levels were determined from the
program activities in Education’s budget request.

The description for each strategic objective includes a fairly lengthy discussion of key
strategies for achieving that objective, including the role of budgetary resources and
legislative initiatives. The descriptions also list Department programs that support the
objective. A separate section of the plan discusses the role of tax expenditures in achieving
the goals and objectives they apply to. Education has added to the description of each
objective a discussion of how external factors, such as the level of state and local funding for
schools, will affect its ability to achieve the objective. For instance, partnerships with
nonfederal levels of government, such as local school districts and other outside entities, are
described.

In reviewing the plan, we did not identify any separate discussion of how capital assets,
mission critical management systems, or human capital will support the achievement of
program results. However, it contains separate strategic objectives related to improving
management information systems, ensuring financial integrity, and developing highly skilled
and high-performing employees. These objectives address achieving program results through
such key strategies as using information technology to increase the efficiency and
effectiveness of Education’s operations, providing accurate and timely financial data to
program offices, and providing training and professional development needed to achieve high
staff and organizational performance.

The fiscal year 2000 performance plan indicates some degree of progress in addressing
weaknesses we identified in our assessment of the fiscal year 1999 performance plan as it
relates to providing a specific discussion of strategies and resources Education will use to
achieve performance goals. In reviewing the fiscal year 1999 plan, we observed that, for
certain performance goals and measures, the plan did not clearly convey how the strategies
and resources would achieve the plan’s goals, nor did it fully describe the human or
technology resources need to achieve the goals. For example, Education did not clearly
explain how its strategy to implement a capital planning and investment control process
would contribute to an objective to have all information systems converted to year 2000
compliance by March 1999.




Page 6                                        GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of Education's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




Among improvements in the fiscal year 2000 plan are added discussions of how external
factors affect each strategic objective. For example, the impact of external factors on the
delivery of elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education programs are described for
each objective in Education’s fiscal year 2000 plan. Some key strategies have been rewritten
to more closely show their relationship to the objective they support. For example, key
strategies for implementing an objective to ensure that an up-to-date knowledge base is
available to support education reform and equity include strengthening internal capacity and
focusing research on solving critical education problems. The 1999 plan described the key
strategy for this objective in more functional terms, such as dissemination and use or
financial support. The fiscal year 2000 plan does not provide any more details on the role of
human or technical resources than the fiscal year 1999 plan. For example, Education’s
performance plans do not provide information describing the operational processes, skills,
and technologies and the capital, information, human, or other resources required to achieve
each performance goal.

Education’s Performance Plan Generally Provides Confidence
That Agency Performance Information Will Be Credible
Education’s fiscal year 2000 performance plan indicates some degree of the Department’s
progress in addressing weaknesses that we identified in our assessment of its fiscal year 1999
performance plan and generally provides confidence that its performance information is
credible. Unlike its fiscal year 1999 performance plan, Education’s current plan describes the
limitations of its performance data and efforts to verify the reliability of performance
measures. For example, for one performance indicator—to annually increase the percentage
of students and their parents who obtain information on the academic requirements for
college or other postsecondary education—the Department acknowledged that no data
currently exist on the extent to which students obtain this information. The current plan also
states that Education will supplement any data limitations with the results of evaluation
studies it conducts or contracts out as well as with the results of onsite reviews or routine
monitoring by Department staff. The plan also recognizes that the large number of individual
education programs in states, communities, and institutions makes it even more difficult to
create sound measurement systems, due to differences in their data collection and reporting
techniques, and that it may take several years to fully develop and implement measures to
improve reliability.

There are instances, however, where the plan does not indicate how some data limitations
will be resolved. For example, there is an objective to ensure that postsecondary students
receive the financial aid and support services they need to enroll in and complete their
education. One indicator for this objective states that Education will assess whether the gap
in college graduation rates between low-income and high-income, and minority and
nonminority students is decreasing. The Department plans to acquire these data from the




Page 7                                        GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of Education's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




Beginning Postsecondary Student Study, which is conducted only once every 8 years. As a
result, Education has decided to use data from another source. But these data do not capture
differences in graduation rates by income level, and the plan does not note how Education
plans to acquire these data. In another case, the plan recognizes that Education found a
relatively high frequency of mismatches between its National Student Loan Data System
(NSLDS) and the loan data provided by lenders and guaranty agencies. These data are used to
estimate, for its annual financial statements, Education’s liabilities for student loans that it
guarantees against possible borrower default. However, the plan does not specify Education’s
strategy and time frames for validating information in NSLDS to ensure the accuracy of
student loan data.

The 2000 plan also describes specific verification and validation efforts. These include
working with the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative to improve the efficiency
and usefulness of data reported on postsecondary education by standardizing definitions of
key variables, avoiding duplicate data requests, and increasing the level of communications
between the major providers and users of postsecondary data. Also, the plan outlines a 5-year
strategy to streamline and benchmark the collection of elementary and secondary program
data. The goal of this system is to provide accurate, comparable information about federal
program results to all program participants. Education also plans to work with its Office of
Inspector General (OIG) to independently monitor the reliability of its data quality in high
priority areas, such as student financial aid. Finally, the plan contains an objective focused on
becoming Year 2000 compliant and includes target dates for ensuing compliance of the
remaining mission critical and noncritical systems.

Other improvements in the fiscal year 2000 plan are the addition of a more detailed
discussion of Education’s strategies and time frames for improving its elementary, secondary,
and postsecondary performance information and a discussion of the data limitations for each
performance indicator. In reviewing the fiscal year 1999 plan, we observed that it did not
provide sufficient confidence that elementary and secondary education performance
information would be credible and did not sufficiently recognize limitations in the data for
these programs. The 2000 plan now includes, for example, a table that lists and defines data
quality standards such as timeliness that Education plans to use for evaluating the quality of
its performance indicators.

Other Observations on Education’s Implementation of
Performance–Based Management
The Department of Education has been making progress toward becoming a more
performance-driven organization but it still faces major challenges in acquiring sufficient
performance data to fully assess its overall program operations and financial condition. Over
the past several years, Education has developed departmentwide strategic and performance




Page 8                                        GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of Education's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




plans; placed more emphasis on performance accountability, such as focusing its Goals 2000
program on state and local accountability for standards-based reform and reducing student
loan default rates; and has established a new performance-based organization to oversee the
operation of the student aid programs. Education has acknowledged in its plan that this is
only initial progress and it will require more time to change the culture of its organization
toward focusing on the overall impact of its programs and operations.

Since the early 1990s, the Department of Education has been challenged to fully develop an
accounting and financial information management system that would generate complete and
accurate data to support its performance plans and to produce credible performance reports.
Education’s OIG reported in its fiscal year 1997 audit report that the Department’s financial
management systems did not substantially comply with the Federal Financial Management
Improvement Act of 1996 due to numerous functional and technical problems. For example,
Education does not have a subsidiary ledger to track loan guaranty agency activity for both
loans receivable and reserves held by guaranty agencies, which would enhance the financial
system capability for accounting for these assets. In addition, although it began to use a fully
integrated financial management system in May 1998, the Department experienced difficulties
in implementing and operating this new core financial management system. As a result,
preparation of the fiscal year 1998 financial statements and the related audit were delayed
until the Department reconciles the general ledger data and resolves significant differences
between the general ledger and other related information.

Although the Department’s fiscal year 1997 financial statement audit reported a clean
opinion, the audit also reported a number of material weaknesses and reportable conditions.
These include matters such as improving the oversight of guaranty agencies and establishing
sufficient controls to detect material errors in its loan liability and subsidy estimates. Yet
Education’s plan does not detail how the Department will reduce the number of material
weaknesses and reportable conditions or which ones will be resolved in 1999 and 2000. In
addition, the timeliness of the annual financial statement audit could be improved. The
Government Management Reform Act of 1994 requires executive agency financial statement
audits for the preceding year to be prepared and submitted to OMB no later than March 1.
The fiscal year 1997 financial statement audit was not completed until May 29, 1998, and the
fiscal year 1998 audit is not scheduled for completion until August 1999.

In accordance with the Higher Education Act Amendments of 1998, Education has
established a Performance Based Organization (PBO) for administering the student aid
delivery system. The performance plan describes how the PBO will (1) develop a new system
architecture that will integrate the multiple student aid databases based on student-level data,
(2) establish industrywide standards for data exchanges to stabilize data requirements and
improve data integrity, (3) receive individual student loan data directly from lenders rather
than through guaranty agencies, (4) continue to expand interagency coordination on data
matches to help improve data accuracy, (5) refine a risk management system encompassing




Page 9                                        GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Department of Education's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




all relevant data on schools’ operation and management of the student aid programs to target
enforcement and compliance activities at poorly performing institutions, and (6) strengthen
indicators of customer satisfaction to be able to obtain early warnings of possible delivery
system problems.

Agency Comments
On May 4, 1999, we obtained oral comments from Department of Education officials,
including the Director of Planning and Evaluation Service and staff from its Office of
Legislation and Congressional Affairs, on a draft of our summary of Education’s fiscal year
2000 annual performance plan. These officials generally agreed with our assessment. They
said it provided an accurate and constructive opinion of their fiscal year 2000 performance
plan. They also acknowledged that additional work is needed in certain areas of the plan and
they plan to continue working with the OMB and others to further improve the plan.




Page 10                                       GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure II

Management Challenges


In December 1998, GAO and Education’s OIG reported on issues we identified as the major
management challenges and program risks facing the student financial aid programs. Table
II.1 summarizes how Education’s performance plan addresses these challenges.

Table II.1: Management Challenges in Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
                                 a
Challenges identified by GAO                               Applicable goals and measures in the fiscal year
                                                                                     b
                                                           2000 performance plan
Education’s administrative effort is inadequate to         Objective 3.3 provides that postsecondary student aid
ensure access to postsecondary institutions while          delivery and program management will be efficient,
protecting federal financial interests. For example, the   financially sound, and customer-responsive. Three
student aid programs provide grants and federally          subobjectives are outlined: (1) improve customer
backed loans to a high-risk population, composed           satisfaction, (2) reduce the overall cost of delivering
largely of low-income students who are not credit          student aid, and (3) transform the Student Financial
worthy. In addition, Education’s administration of         Assistance Office into a performance based
these programs has contributed to federal exposure         organization.
to mismanagement and abuses.
Education does not have a sound, integrated                None. However, the section of the plan devoted to data
information technology strategy to manage its              verification and validation discusses developing a
portfolio of information systems and, therefore, the       systems architecture for purposes of integrating the
Department, guaranty agencies, schools, and lenders        multiple student aid databases. This is also a
often do not have the accurate, complete, and timely       measurement indicator. Also, indicator 87 relates to this
information on program participants needed to              challenge. It states that all Information Technology
effectively and efficiently operate and manage the         Investment Board assessments will show that major
programs. (OIG also identified this area as a              information systems are mission-driven, cost-effective,
management challenge.)                                     and consistent with our information technology
                                                           architecture, and supported by performance-based
                                                                      c
                                                           contracts.
Lack of adequate financial data hinders management         None. The section of the plan devoted to data
of student financial aid programs, such as Education’s     verification and validation outlines several steps
ability to prepare financial statements that fairly        Education plans to take to improve student financial aid
present the actual financial condition of its student      data. Two performance indicators elsewhere in the plan
financial aid programs. In addition, although the          also promote data quality improvements: indicator 92
Department received an unqualified audit opinion on        states that by the year 2000, the Education Central
its fiscal year 1997 consolidated financial statements,    Automated Processing System (EDCAPS) will be fully
it continues to lack accurate and reliable data on         implemented and providing Department managers with
costs associated with outstanding student loans. (OIG      consistent, timely and reliable financial and program
also identified this area as a management challenge.)      information; and indicator 98 states that by the year
                                                           2000, all Education program managers will assert that
                                                           the data used for their program’s performance
                                                           measurement are reliable, valid, and timely or will have
                                                           plans for improvement.
Year 2000 computer compliance is lacking. Education        Objective 4.4—information technology investments are
faces major risks that Year 2000 failures could            sound and used to improve impact and efficiency—
seriously disrupt the student financial aid delivery       includes as one of its key strategies fulfilling Year 2000
process. Because these systems are interdependent,         compliance. The measurement indicator for this states
repercussions from shortcomings related to Year            that all major information systems needing repair will be
2000 could be felt throughout the student financial aid    converted to Year 2000 compliance by March 1999
community. (OIG also identified this area as a             (allowing time for testing during 1999).
management challenge.)
Education continues to be challenged in balancing          Objective 4.2 provides that partners will have the
oversight of programs and program flexibility. The         support and flexibility they need without diminishing
Congress has eased some federal requirements to            accountability for results. Five measurement indicators




Page 11                                         GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure II
Management Challenges




                                 a
Challenges identified by GAO                               Applicable goals and measures in the fiscal year
                                                                                     b
                                                           2000 performance plan
reduce paperwork and regulatory burden as it               address this challenge. For example, reports from
increased state and local responsibilities for             program monitoring teams and audit reports under the
managing programs. As a result, the Department             Single Audit Act will show a reduction in significant
does not have enough information on program                findings that recur from year to year.
effectiveness to meet the information needs of the
Congress and other decisionmakers.



                                             d
Challenges identified by Education’s OIG
Implementation of an effective PBO to operate the          None. However, the strategies, subobjectives, and
student financial aid programs presents major              indicators outlined in objective 3.3 constitute the
management challenges.                                     performance standards for PBO. PBO plans to update
                                                           these with a 5-year performance plan it will submit to
                                                           the Congress in September 1999.
The Department’s information technology staff still        None. However, one of the seven key strategies for
lacks technical expertise for negotiating and              achieving objective 4.4 is to provide project
overseeing systems contracts.                              management training to information technology project
                                                           managers and to develop skills training for all
                                                           information technology professional staff.
The Department continues to experience start-up and        This challenge is addressed by indicator 92—that by the
data integrity problems with EDCAPS.                       year 2000, EDCAPS will be fully implemented and
                                                           provide Department and program managers with
                                                           consistent, timely and reliable financial and program
                                                           information.
Gatekeeping and institutional monitoring in the            None.
student financial aid programs are continuing
management challenges.
While the Department now has legislative authority to      None. In discussing coordination with other federal
implement a data match with the Internal Revenue           agencies, the plan describes working with the Internal
Service to ensure that student financial aid recipients    Revenue Service to implement this match, which is
accurately report income to qualify for financial aid,     authorized under the Higher Education Act
implementation challenges remain.                          Amendments of 1998.
“Paperless” systems for student financial aid fund         None. However, key strategies for two objectives
delivery create new opportunities for efficiency and       include attracting more electronic filings of the student
require effective controls to ensure accountability,       aid application and securing Internet services. The plan
security, and legal enforceability.                        does not include a more specific discussion of controls
                                                           or protections.
Performance reporting under the Results Act will           Within goal 4, objective 4.7 includes among its key
require management attention. The Department now           strategies ensuring assessment of the quality of data
needs to take additional steps, including finalizing and   systems. Indicator 98 provides that by the year 2000, all
implementing a process for the accurate and timely         Education program managers will assert that the data
reporting of Results Act performance indicators, in        used for their program’s performance measurement are
order to comply with the law.                              reliable, valid, and timely or will have plans for
                                                           improvement. A separate section of the plan discusses
                                                           data and information quality improvement in more detail.
                                                           It includes (l) working with states to develop a
                                                           benchmarking system for elementary and secondary
                                                           program data collection, (2) improving postsecondary
                                                           program data quality, and (3) recognizing challenges
                                                           the Department faces in implementing these steps.
a
Major Management Challenges and Program Risks: Department of Education (GAO/OCG-99-5, Jan. 1999).




Page 12                                          GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure II
Management Challenges




b
Education has four mission goals and a number of objectives within each goal. The objectives are numbered by the goal. For
example, the first objective of the first goal would be numbered objective 1.1.
c
 The Information Technology Review Board advises the Secretary of Education on information technology investments to be
funded. It is also charged with reviewing progress of ongoing information technology initiatives and evaluating performance and
outcomes.
d
 Office of Inspector General, Management Challenges Confronting the Department of Education, December 1998
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Dec. 1, 1998).




Page 13                                             GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure III

Major Contributors


GAO Contact
Cynthia M. Fagnoni,   (202) 512-7215




Acknowledgments
In addition to the contact named above, Joseph Eglin Jr., Joel Marus, Linda W. Stokes,
Chinero N. Thomas, and Heidikitt Winter made key contributions to this report.




(104977)




Page 14                                GAO/HEHS-99-136R Education’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan