Annual Report to Congress Fiscal Year 1998
The OCR is better equipped to handle the complex education challenges raised by the civil rights issues of this decade than it was during its austere years. We have invested heavily in ensuring the best training and development for both our new staff members and our more experienced workers. Still, the OCR staff must keep current in the ever-changing fields of technology. We also must stay up-to-date in the area of appropriate dispute resolution. For example, in working with school districts, the agency's investigative staff need to extend their techniques beyond traditional ones to include the newer appropriate dispute resolution methods of facilitation and negotiation.
In addition, the OCR staff must learn to identify clearly the impact of its work on students, on student access, on compliance activities and on partnerships with groups inside and outside the federal arena. Staff will also need to keep careful measurements of complaints to ensure their timely resolution. In the next fiscal year, we want to bring about change more efficiently for the greatest number of students - many of whom experience substandard schooling through circumstances of birth and geography.
With the full funding enjoyed by the OCR during the last fiscal year, we have been able to move away from putting nearly all our resources into investigating individual complaints. With this year's staff, we can now plan broader activities, including conducting compliance reviews and providing technical assistance on the areas that would do the most good for the greatest number of people. We have moved from an exclusively reactive mode, necessary during a staff shortfall, into self-initiation of activities.
Along with supporting its time-honored goal of bringing equity to all students, the OCR must respond to changes in the education community. In fiscal year 1998, we have made positive changes in the educational experiences of nearly six million students. Each of the efforts we make toward improving the lives of approximately 5.9 million students - whether it was moving an African American child into the gifted and talented courses appropriate for her, or making sure that visually impaired students studying in 110 state colleges would be able to use material from the library collection - has resulted in a federal expenditure, on the average, of only $1 per student. We pledge to continue our work so that the OCR benefits the greatest number of people and impacts on the most severe discrimination problems - and does it in the most efficient way possible.