Department of Education FY 2013 E-Government Act Report
November 8, 2013

Section 1 - Highlights of Agency E-Government Activities

A. Enhanced Delivery of Information and Services to the Public - Sec. 101, 3602
Web Broadcasting Services to the General Public and Teleworkers

Starting in February 2013, the Department of Education (ED) implemented new capabilities that provide public facing web broadcasting services to the general public and teleworkers via EDstream.ed.gov.

In response to OMB Memorandum M-12-12, Promoting Efficient Spending to Support Agency Operations, and associated administration priorities to reduce travel costs and leverage technology solutions, ED embarked on providing an event webcasting solution that allows senior leadership to conduct a myriad of communications and outreach activities. One example is the ED Youth Policy Briefing Sessions. By broadcasting these sessions externally, the Department has reduced the need for travel and conference spending, while actively engaging the general public. This new capability also enables teleworkers to be more engaged with ED's activities, including the ability to view Principal Office-specific "All-Staff" meetings via http://edstream.ed.gov/.

Originally implemented in 2010, ED's web broadcasting system was limited to internal audiences logged into the network. The expanded system provides event webcasting services to internal (Mediasite.ed.gov) and external (Edstream.ed.gov) audiences supporting both live (near real-time) and on-demand viewing options.

Since the first public broadcast event in February 2013, ED has supported over 62 hours of content for 57 events resulting in more than 6,300 views and 4,400+ viewership hours of content by the general public and/or teleworkers.

Loan Counseling Tools on StudentLoans.gov

With nearly 40 million student loan borrowers and a portfolio of over $1 trillion, one of the Department of Education's key missions is to ensure that timely, accurate, personalized information is available to help borrowers manage their debt. The recently implemented Loan Counseling Tools on StudentLoans.gov provide students and borrowers with interactive, comprehensive, and personalized information regarding their financial aid choices and repayment options. In addition to previously available entrance and exit counseling, the tools include the new Financial Aid Counseling Tool (FACT), which all borrowers can complete at any point in the financial aid lifecycle. FACT, which includes personalized loan history, loan basics, and budgeting tools, can be completed each academic year to remind borrowers of their financial commitment and reinforce basic financial literacy concepts.

Entrance counseling is available to all first-time undergraduate and graduate borrowers, who are required to complete the presentation prior to receiving their first loan disbursement. The counseling provides foundational information such as basic loan and budgeting concepts, college cost comparison data, and loan repayment terms and conditions. Exit counseling is available to all borrowers as they prepare to leave school. The tool provides borrowers with key information regarding their loan servicer, available repayment plans including income-driven repayment options, as well as the consequences of default. It also allows borrowers to forecast their future income to better understand how student loan repayments may impact their financial situation.

The Loan Counseling Tools provide personalized real-time data in an interactive format, allowing student/borrowers to build a budget (downloadable in a spreadsheet) and evaluate their financial aid options and or other resources available to them. All three tools are accessible at https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/counselingInstructions.action and provide broader financial literacy content, such as details about private educational loans, credit cards, and income taxes. Since being implemented, the Loan Counseling Tools have allowed the Department of Education to deliver relevant information to about 12 million student/borrowers.

B. Capital Planning and Investment Control Procedures for IT - Sec. 101, 3602

The G5 grants management system promotes shared development of common business processes, data, information, applications and technologies within the grants-making offices at the Department while also promoting interoperability with other federal agencies and external resources. As the result of previous PortfolioStat reviews of grants systems, the Department has outlined a strategy (called the Grants Management Roadmap) for migrating existing functionality and systems into G5, enabling a reduction in the current IT investments or systems and providing a path for new functional requirements to be incorporated. The select, control and evaluate phases within the Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC) process benefit the G5 roadmap by helping increase its effectiveness and efficiency through periodic assessments of its value as a business service to its customers. Also, CPIC activities help maintain controls for the IT investment's operations and ensure the investment is meeting its planned performance and managerial goals. The portfolio selection process, conducted annually, assesses the G5 investment's current funding needs and gives the investment owner the opportunity to reassess the service and justify any funding modifications. The process assesses whether the G5 investment is still adding value and managed effectively, based on planned performance measures and portfolio selection criteria. The process also identifies areas for improvement as reflected by lower score results in assessed areas. As part of the control and evaluate phases, an annual program assessment is conducted to evaluate the G5 investment over several key program management criteria. The program assessment helps the Department identify troubled management areas in the investment, makes suggestions for improving the investment's health (if necessary), and maintains a positive and collaborative communication with the Office of the CIO. This exercise helps establish management and performance metrics, as well as plans for improving governance and management activities, operating procedures, and other plans for improvement to ensure the investment is meeting its customers' business needs while performing well from the program management perspective. In the most recent G5 program assessment (2013) the total assessment score was 3.1 out of 5.0. A corrective action plan (CAP) was generated. The project manager addressed the areas of concern outlined in the CAP and was re-assessed with a program assessment score of 3.6 out of 5.0.

Section 2 - Compliance with Goals and Provisions of the Act

A. Performance Integration - Sec. 202(b)

The performance metrics for agency IT investments are developed in the Enterprise Architecture Segment Modernization Planning Process. The Department categorizes its IT investments into 13 lines of business (LOB). LOB performance goals and objectives are aligned to those of the agency and are focused on innovation, customer service, continuous process improvement and organizational performance management. The Planning and Investment Review Working Group periodically evaluates performance metrics.

The Department uses value and performance metrics to evaluate its IT investments with its value measurement methodology (VMM); the results are used to make funding and management decisions.

The VMM process contains five steps:

  • Establish mission priorities
  • Define value drivers
  • Prioritize and select
  • Execute and deliver
  • Assess value and benefit

In conducting the VMM process, the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) and LOB Senior Executives develop and prioritize mission priorities to which all IT investments align. The current mission priorities represented in the VMM are:

  • Manage loan and grant programs efficiently and effectively
  • Effectively disseminate information about Education programs
  • Ensure compliance with Federal law regarding access to education
  • Evaluate Education program performance
  • Provide common services that improve workforce productivity

Education senior executives develop value drivers in specific performance areas:

  • Strategic Plan alignment
  • Cost reduction/avoidance
  • Productivity and efficiency
  • Effectiveness and capacity

IT investments are then given a value score based on their alignment to the established mission priorities and value drivers.

IT Operational Performance Metrics: http://www.itdashboard.gov/portfolios/agency=018

B. Accessibility
C. Government-Public Collaboration - Sec. 202(e)

More than 150 of America's entrepreneurs, software developers, education experts, and policy makers came together Oct. 9, 2012, for an Education Datapalooza at the White House. The gathering was a chance to celebrate new products, services, and apps—all built with freely available data from the government and other sources—that have the potential to help American students succeed and that empower students and their families to make informed educational decisions. Notable among the many impressive announcements:

  • Over 78 million people are now able to download their own Federal student loan and grant data from the Department of Education via the NSLDS Student Access system.
  • On the K-12 level, pioneering school districts and states—including York County and New York State—are committing to give students the ability to access and download their own academic data.
  • A new state-led effort will make it easier to transfer academic information digitally and securely when moving between schools, an especially valuable service for children of active military and foster children.
  • A new Department of Education and higher education institution collaboration to work on a data standard for postsecondary course catalogs, degree requirements, and related information. As more postsecondary institutions provide their course and awards data in the same format, students will benefit with new options to shorten college completion time and costs.

The Department plans two data jams to be held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University in fall 2013. The Data Jams will focus on data related to postsecondary education and will lead up to a second Education Datapalooza. The goal of the Education Data Jams and Datapalooza is to spark interest and collaboration among entrepreneurs and developers in creating apps and other digital tools to facilitate easier access to higher education information for prospective and current college students.

These efforts build upon the MyData Initiative, which is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Education and software developers to help students securely export or download their own educational data in open, machine-readable, human-readable formats, on any system. A number of vendors that already provide schools with software systems have committed to offer this functionality. See videos of talks from Education Datapalooza.

Giving students their own data can be potentially game-changing. For example, with access to their own data, students are able to create personal learning profiles—educational portfolios of their own records. They can then choose to safely share pieces of those learning profiles with an ever-growing network of applications being built by private-sector entrepreneurs to help inform choices about which classes to take, which colleges to apply to, and how to pay for tuition.

Open data standards can also solve problems inherent in the antiquated paper-based student record system. For example, many teachers and principals across the country deal with new students who show up at their classrooms with virtually no paper trail. This forces educators to make important decisions with no student records, no data, and no points of reference. If every student information system can import and export student academic records in the same standardized format, it makes it easier for schools to transfer information internally and with other schools. Moreover, this problem disproportionately affects low-income students, who are often more likely to be transient and are most dependent on support from their schools.

Smart use of open data will help improve college access and affordability for students, and help us meet the President's challenge to regain our place as world leader in our proportion of college graduates by 2020.

D. Credentialing - Sec. 203

In FY13, the Department of Education started a project to implement an enterprise single sign on (eSSO) solution that will allow personal identification verification (PIV) card holders to logon to Department systems using a PIV card and personal identification number (PIN). The Department successfully completed the implementation for two Department systems in a test environment and initiated the transition to production for these systems with the objective of completing the production deployments in FY14. The eSSO solution is a component of the enterprise identity management solution described in the Department's Identity, Credential, and Access Management (ICAM) Roadmap published in FY12. The Department's roadmap aligns with the Federal ICAM initiative.

To assist system owners in leveraging the eSSO solution, the Department drafted an Implementation Guide that details the criteria and requirements that system owners must meet in order to leverage the eSSO solution. The initial implementation work in FY13 also allowed the Department to determine the cost to system owners for implementation and maintenance of the eSSO solution.

Also in FY13, the Department was successful in implementing required infrastructure changes to enable the Department's transition from PIV cards with secure hash algorithm 1 (SHA-1) certificates to PIV cards with stronger SHA-2 certificates.

E. USA.gov activities - Sec. 204 and Sec. 207(f)
F. eRulemaking - Sec. 206

The Department accepts public comments on all of its proposed and interim final regulations, as well as an increasing number of other regulatory documents, through Regulations.gov. In FY 2013, the Department posted 41 proposed rules, 190 Federal Register notices, and 1,906 public submissions in Regulations.gov, including Federal Student Loans proposed regulations under title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, issued after a three-month regulatory negotiation with the affected community. The Department received 25 comments on these proposed regulations. Several Department offices worked on reviewing, organizing, and responding to these comments. Department users of the Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) could access the comments at the same time and at any time. The non-Federal members of the negotiating committee and the public also had immediate access to the comments in Regulations.gov. Public users could respond to other commenters' suggestions. Receipt of FDMS comments will result in final regulations being published faster than they would have without electronic commenting. Also, Department staff did not need to staff a public docket room with constant visitors and copying needs. Similarly, the Department benefited from using Regulations.gov for notices seeking public input on the issues that the next negotiated rulemaking committees should address. The agency received about 1,000 comments in response to these notices and has been able to narrow down the issues to address through negotiated rulemaking as a result.

G. National Archives Records Administration (NARA) Recordkeeping - Sec. 207(e)

The Department complies with all NARA policies for the management of electronic records, including online records. An electronic information systems data call was recently completed to identify all current systems. A comprehensive validation process is ongoing to identify scheduled and unscheduled electronic information systems. Thus far, ED has validated 121 electronic information systems are currently scheduled. Approximately 234 electronic information systems remain to be examined, including the agency's Internet and intranet websites. The Department has five electronic information systems records schedules under development.

The Department revised and deployed a new mandatory all-employee records management online training module that includes specific requirements for managing electronic records, including email records. An agency-wide internal evaluation of component records management programs was conducted to assess adherence to the agency's policies and procedures for managing electronic records. The Department completed a pilot of a DOD 5015.2 certified electronic recordkeeping system (HP TRIM) to assess its capabilities for managing all agency electronic records, including email records. In addition, the Department is currently exploring adoption of NARA's Capstone approach for managing email records.

H. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) - Sec. 207(f)(A)(ii)
I. Information Resources Management Strategic Plan - Sec. 207(f)(A)(iv)
J. Public Access to Electronic Information - Sec. 207(f)(B)
K. Research and Development (R&D) - Sec. 207(g)
  • http://ies.ed.gov - The main Education organization that supports research and statistics is the Institute of Education Sciences, which funds top educational researchers nationwide to conduct studies that seek answers on what works for students from preschools to postsecondary, including interventions for special education students. The Institute also collects data and provides statistics on the condition of education and facilitates the use of research and data to improve education.
  • http://nces.ed.gov - The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.
L. Privacy Policy and Privacy Impact Assessments - Sec. 208(b)

The Privacy and Information Clearance Collection Division (PICCD) is responsible for ensuring that the Department adheres to OMB guidance about the use of IT to collect, maintain, or disseminate identifiable information from or about members of the public. When the Department develops or procures such a system, or when a Paperwork Reduction Act collection is initiated, PICCD works with the system owner (SO) and the Information Systems Security Officer (ISSO) to conduct a PIA and post it to ED.gov. If changes to an existing system create new privacy risks, PICCD will initiate or update a PIA with the SO. The Department also meets the requirement of posting privacy policies on its public websites. When a new public website is developed, PICCD works with the project lead and the ISSO to develop and post a privacy policy addressing all required elements from OMB directives. Our process for performing and updating PIAs for IT systems is as follows: To determine the necessary privacy documentation, PICCD provides the SO with a Privacy Threshold Analysis (PTA) to complete. If the PTA shows no PII, the process is complete. If a PIA is necessary, PICCD provides the SO with the PIA template, which the SO completes, consulting with the ISSO as needed. PICCD then collaborates with the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the Office of General Counsel, and the Records and Documents Management Division to address any issues. Changes are communicated with the SO, who updates the PIA, collects internal signatures, and returns the final draft to PICCD. Systems with social security numbers require additional high-level approval. The Chief Privacy Officer signs the document, and it is posted to ED.gov.

M. Privacy Policy and Privacy Impact Assessment Links - Sec. 208(b)
N. Agency IT Training Programs - Sec. 209(b)(2)

In FY13, nearly 2,000 completed an instructor-led IT course offered by ED's Office of Management. Risk and project schedule management, creating accessible documents, conducting project progress reviews, and software skills improvements are some of the nearly 100 different classes. In addition, nearly 7,000 gained IT skills and knowledge through ED's library of online IT courses. ED also offered learning opportunities through workshops, brown bag lunches, and webinars.

The Privacy Safeguards and Information Assurance Programs develop and update required cybersecurity and privacy awareness training for all staff and contractors and specialized role-based privacy training for senior officials, system administrators and others dealing with data and IT. ED enhanced its training program in FY13 by: incorporating best practices to mitigate audit findings; adapting the training to be responsive to current events, such as phishing; increasing access points to training—online, live and downloadable briefings; shortening the average completion time by 50 percent; releasing the 2013 training earlier in the year to allow personnel more time to complete it by the deadline; and improving the readability of training and test documents on the Flesch Reading Ease Scale. ED achieved a 100 percent completion rate for both general awareness training and role-based training in FY13.

Competency reviews for the agency's IT workforce are performed as part of the Department's overall performance management system, which uses a results-oriented process to improve individual performance to achieve the Department's mission. The REsults ACHieved (REACH) system is designed to promote consistency and transparency across the organization in how work is defined and evaluated. REACH focuses on employees and supervisors working together to develop performance plans, maintaining ongoing feedback about expected outcomes, rewarding good performance, and creating development plans to improve results. Supplementing REACH performance reviews were results from the voluntary OPM Program and Project Manager WorkForce Survey. In FY13, ED determined that the program and project manager area with the greatest competency gap was IT project risk management. This gap was addressed by working with a vendor to develop a course in IT project risk management that was provided twice for a total of 38 employees.

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Last Modified: 04/03/2014