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Government information that is particularly influential needs to meet higher quality standards, and in particular must be reproducible. Per the OMB guidelines, information is designated as influential if the Department determines that the information is reasonably likely to have a clear and substantial impact on public policies or private sector decisions if disseminated. Scientific, financial, and statistical information all may be considered influential. Individual programs within the Department of Education may designate certain classes of scientific, financial, and statistical information as influential.
For example, institutional data on the total number of student borrowers who enter repayment on Stafford loans during a specific fiscal year, and related data on the subset of students who default before the end of the next fiscal year are used in the calculation of cohort loan default rates of Stafford loan borrowers at each postsecondary institution. These default rates are compared to established thresholds for high and low default rates, resulting in sanctions for institutions with high default rates and reduced administrative burden for institutions with low default rates. Given this use, these data and the calculations used in computing the rates and in setting the thresholds are influential. Similarly, the data and formulas used in determining program allocation of funds in areas such as special education, adult education, and Title I are influential.
As specified in the OMB guidelines, influential information must be accompanied by supporting documentation that allows an external user to understand clearly the information and be able to reproduce it, or understand the steps involved in producing it. With respect to original and supporting data related thereto, the Department will assure reproducibility for such data according to commonly accepted scientific, financial, or statistical standards for that type of data, taking into account any ethical and confidentiality constraints. In the case of influential analytic results, the mathematical and statistical processes used to produce the report must be described in sufficient detail to allow an independent analyst to substantially reproduce the findings using the original data and identical methods. In situations where the public cannot access the data and methods due to other compelling interests such as privacy, intellectual property or other confidentiality protections, the Department will apply especially rigorous robustness checks to analytic results and document what checks were undertaken.
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