|Our mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation|
The Department's Strategic Plan and Mission
During fiscal year 1996, the Department updated its comprehensive strategic plan. The plan continues to reflect the Department's efforts to restructure the federal role in education, focus on performance, reduce and streamline the number of programs and improve internal Department management. By including measures of performance which reach all levels and divisions of the Department, the strategic plan holds the Department and its employees accountable for results.
The Department's mission is "to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the Nation." There are four strategic priorities that support the mission and numerous performance indicators to assess the Department's progress on each priority. The performance indicators represent pre-defined objectives and measure results over time. These yardsticks measure the Department's performance in relation to defined objectives.
A major part of the Department's budget goes to helping state and local governments support elementary and secondary education. For fiscal year 1996, this assistance was primarily through grants targeted at high priority programs accounting for almost $17 billion, or over 54 percent, of the Department's budget--- $3 billion increase over the fiscal year 1995 budget. This priority is designed to help all students and learners meet challenges and prepare for productive employment. The major programs supporting this priority are described below:
Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act directs over $7 billion to strengthen teaching of basic and advanced skills to approximately 7 million children attending the highest poverty schools in all 50 states. Title I places the focus on teaching and learning rather than rules and requirements. It is expected that the students who receive these services---when measured by the same state assessments that measure all students---will make progress toward the same challenging academic standards. This contrasts with low expectations, remediation and separate testing that Title I students previously received. Title I also focuses on school-wide reforms instead of isolated programs, and targets more funds on high-poverty districts and schools.
Special Education programs assist over 5 million children with disabilities, from birth through age 21, in meeting their developmental and educational needs. Consistent with the goal of improved educational results for children with disabilities, the Department has strengthened enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. For example, the Department improved its monitoring process through such changes as obtaining input from the public and parents before developing a state's corrective action plan, focusing those plans on requirements most directly influencing educational results for students, visiting certain states to ensure they have taken corrective actions and documenting both improvements and any remaining non-compliance.
Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research programs provide assistance to one million adults with disabilities, most of them severe, in achieving successful employment outcomes and independent living. Each year, about 200,000 individuals with disabilities are placed in the competitive labor market or become self-employed. The Department administers these programs mostly through grants to states. States, in turn, develop, implement and coordinate comprehensive programs of vocational rehabilitation and independent living for individuals with disabilities.
Vocational Education programs support activities at both the secondary and postsecondary levels to prepare students for both college and careers. Adult Education programs provide assistance to approximately 4 million educationally disadvantaged adults to achieve literacy, certification of high school equivalency and English language proficiency.
The Department's Impact Aid program provides assistance to state and local communities for whom federal activities may present a hardship. The presence of a military base or federal ownership of a significant portion of local property, for example, may be undercutting the local tax base that ordinarily serves as the principal source of school funding. Impact Aid is intended to replace this lost revenue.
Professional Development funds support locally-guided teacher training in the core academic subjects. This investment is intended to ensure that teachers are prepared to teach to the high academic standards that states are now developing.
The Safe and Drug-Free Schools program now provides school security, drug prevention and education programs in 97 percent of America's school districts. The Gun-Free Schools Act and related Presidential Directive enforce a policy of "zero tolerance" in our schools---if a student brings a gun to school, he or she is suspended for one year.
Goals 2000 helps parents, teachers and community leaders improve their own schools. At the heart of Goals 2000 is a grants program that provides seed money to help states and communities develop and implement their own approaches to education reform. As a result, no new regulations have been needed to implement the program. According to a recent study, 48 states are developing common academic standards for their students in core subject areas, with 38 states having developed new or revised standards in the last year. This is more than 3 times the number of states established as a goal in our performance measure.
|More states will use high-quality standards to guide student assessment and curriculum frameworks. By school year 1995-96, at least 25 percent of the states will have content and performance standards in place for two or more core subjects; 80 percent of the states will have them by 1997-98.|
Research, Statistics and Improvement of education-related information were some of the initial responsibilities of the Department of Education when it was founded in 1867. These functions are just as important now as they were at the time of the Department's inception. This service has historically assisted educators and academics who look to the Department for guidance and leadership on a national level.
|By Fall of 1996, at least 10,000 employers will participate in School-to-Work systems. By Fall of 2000, at lease 50,000 employers will be participating.|
Because the challenges of today's economy make education after high school more important than ever, the Department has been working hard to ensure access to postsecondary education for all students. In order to help students and their families pay for college, the Department has focused on two major efforts: creating and implementing the Direct Loan program and increasing funding for federal student financial assistance which comprises grant, loan and Work-Study programs.
The Direct Loan program has revolutionized federal student loan delivery by providing borrowers and participating schools with a simple, more automated and accountable system. In this, its third successful year, the program will provide $9 billion in loans at over 1,600 schools. More than 2.1 million student and parent borrowers have received direct loans since the program began in 1993.
The Pell Grant program is the largest and most important form of student financial aid for the nation's neediest students. Each year, nearly 4 million students receive Pell grants averaging more than $1,500.
The Department's Campus Based programs provide assistance to institutions which enable them to provide students with grants, part-time employment and low interest loans on the basis of need. Higher Education programs support the development and strengthening of educational endeavors at institutions and provide for direct grants and fellowships to students through a variety of programs.
|Better integration of Office of Postsecondary Education organizational components will result in improved program efficiency.|
During fiscal year 1996, the Department also refocused its oversight of the postsecondary institutions that participate in the student financial aid programs. At the heart of this effort is the reorganization of the Office of Postsecondary Education's Institutional Participation and Oversight Service into regional case management divisions. These divisions are responsible for all core oversight functions for their respective portfolio of schools. A direct outcome of the strategic planning/performance measurement process, the reorganization will allow the Department to monitor schools' compliance with requirements of the student financial aid programs more efficiently while relieving administrative burden on schools.
The Department has dramatically improved customer access to its programs and materials. 1-800-USA-LEARN, the toll-free, one-stop shopping center, provides information and accurate referrals to approximately 5,000 callers each week. 1-800-4FED-AID, our student aid hotline, will assist over 3 million callers this year. The Department's World Wide Web site (www.ed.gov) provides information to an average of 1.6 million requests each month and has received numerous a wards for its content and customer-friendly access.
Reducing the Burden of Regulation and Paperwork
The Department recognizes that serving customers better requires reducing regulatory and paperwork burdens. We committed to eliminate or streamline 93 percent of all relevant regulations. In fiscal year 1996, the Department exceeded that ambitious goal by eliminating 39 percent and revising 55 percent of its regulations---a total reduction of 2,031 pages. By consistently applying a set of strict "Principles for Regulating" and consulting extensively with customers, the Department made significant practical changes that reduce requirements on school districts, state education agencies, colleges, grant applicants, student borrowers and their families. Finally, the Department cut more than 10 percent of the information collection requirements that were in place just a year ago.
|Fully implement a Departmental "family-friendly workplace" initiative by 1996.|
Family-Friendly Work Environment
The Department of Education believes its employees are its greatest strength. Because of this, the Department strives to offer the tools and support its employees' need to develop to their full potential. The Department recognizes that employees have responsibilities to their families and communities, as well as to their jobs. As a result of the strategic plan, the Department's family-friendly program was fully implemented in fiscal year 1996. The program helps employees develop and implement personal strategies to maintain a healthy and successful balance between home and work which in turn enables employees to make more effective contributions to the Department of Education.
The Department is streamlining its discretionary grant processes by eliminating unnecessary requirements and improving the timeliness of grantee notification. When fully implemented, this reform is expected to reduce the number of steps needed to make a discretionary grant by 50 percent, cut the processing time by 25 percent, and reduce the notification time by 2 to 3 months.
Four Department of Education Teams received the prestigious Hammer Award in fiscal year 1996 for their work in helping to reinvent the Department and increase the efficiency of government. The Hammer Award is Vice President Gore's recognition to teams throughout the federal government who have supported the President's National Performance Review (NPR) principles---putting customers first, cutting red tape, empowering employees and getting back to basics. The following four teams received a framed hammer and a note from the Vice President: the Cooperative Audit Resolution and Oversight Initiative Team, the Performance Appraisal System Implementation Team, the Rehabilitation Services Administration Service Delivery Reform Team and the Reinvention Coordinating Council. The Department has received a total of ten Hammer Awards since the President's NPR initiative began in 1993.
In September 1996, the Department received the Eagle Award from the National Partnership Council for its success in transforming labor-management relations and for helping to build a government that "works better and costs less." The National Partnership Council recognizes achievements of labor-management partnerships working together to create better government. The Department was one of 93 federal agencies/installations nationwide nominated, and one of only five to receive the award.
Reengineered Management Processes
Fiscal year 1996 was also a year of significant redesign of management processes to better serve the Department's internal customers. In addition to the family-friendly program described above, several key management processes have been overhauled to improve the timeliness and quality of services. For example: