A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

U.S. Department of Education Strategic Plan, 1998-2002 - September 1997

Goal 4. Make ED a high-performance organization by focusing on results, service quality, and customer satisfaction.

To help students reach challenging academic standards, to help build a solid foundation for learning for all students, and to ensure access to postsecondary education and lifelong learning, the Department must be committed to world-class management, quality service, and customer satisfaction. To be a leader in educational reforms, the Department has to be a leader in organizational and internal performance reforms. To achieve these results requires breakthrough thinking and accomplishments--in customer service, support for our partners, educational research, technology both internal and external, workforce planning and development, financial integrity, and strategic planning and performance measurement.

To become a high-performance organization, the Department must become "results and accountability driven." This will happen when we:

During the past few years, we have made much progress in transforming ED into a high performance organization. But more remains to be done. The objectives in Goal 4 and objective 3.3 in Goal 3 identify critical management processes for the Department that need ongoing attention or further development.

Use of Evaluations and Assessments in Developing Goal 4

Objectives, Indicators, and Strategies

Objective 4.1: Our customers receive fast, seamless service and dissemination of high-quality information and products.

Performance Indicators:

  1. By 2001 at least 90% of customers, internal and external, will agree that ED products, services, and information, including those on the Department's web site, are of high quality, timely, and accessible.
  2. Department employees and front-line service centers will meet or exceed the Department's customer service standards by 2000.
  3. Quarterly evaluation reports for the "One-Pubs" system, based on quality assurance surveillance, will indicate that high standards of performance are achieved for dissemination of ED's information products by 2000.

People who need answers to their queries want help, not busy signals and unreturned phone messages. Customer service isn't just a slogan, it is a necessary focus of our organization. We believe that customers should have seamless access to information and services and are striving to meet the standards we have set for customer service. (See the Department's customer service standards.) The Department has sought out feedback from customers to improve our programs and services; and this feedback has led to significant improvements in the way we do business.

Core Strategies:

Objective 4.2: Our partners have the support and flexibility they need without diminishing accountability for results.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Surveys of states and school districts will increasingly rate the Department's technical assistance, including assistance from the integrated reviews, as very useful in improving their performance.
  2. By 2002 the number of separate ED programs will decline significantly from the current 197 programs in FY 1997. (Requires legislative action.)
  3. Customers will increasingly report that they have greater flexibility and better understanding of ED rules and requirements.
  4. New discretionary grants processed using the re-engineered grant-making process will be awarded each year on a timely basis.
  5. Reports from program monitoring teams and audit reports under the Single Audit Act will show a reduction in significant recurring findings.
  6. The number of states participating in the Cooperative Audit Resolution and Oversight Initiative (CAROI) will increase to meet the needs of our partners.

Many Department programs serve similar target populations, such as educationally disadvantaged children, although each program has a different focus and purposes. To improve teaching and learning for these children, the Department needs to be organized to promote the integration of federal programs with one another as well as with state and local programs.

Two important review processes that use cross-cutting teams to provide program monitoring and technical assistance are providing states with single contacts, coordinated guidance, and a straightforward process for conflict resolution.

These new processes promote cooperative, rather than adversarial, relationships between the Department and our grantees.

Further, to better support our partners and ensure that taxpayers get results for their investment, we need to continue improving our key internal processes and systems supporting federal aid to education. Some of our legislative authorities will need revision to support the Government Performance and Results Act's focus on results. To make regulations helpful to achieving program goals and accountability, they should be as flexible, performance-oriented, and unburdensome as possible. The re-engineered discretionary grants process will give the grantee community one point of contact, more time to make proposals, and more technical assistance before and after grant awards.

Core Strategies:

Objective 4.3: An up-to-date knowledge base is available from education research to support education reform and equity.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Peer reviews will increasingly show that education research and statistics supported by the Department are of high quality, are focused on critical education reform issues, and contribute significantly to educational improvement.
  2. Education research will increasingly meet the needs of our partners (e.g., states, schools, institutions of higher education, national associations) and our customers (teachers, parents, students, business) for reliable information on how to make schools more effective, as measured by biennial customer surveys.
  3. In major and selected other programs, increasing percentages of grantees will demonstrate that their programs and services are based on sound research results.
  4. Dissemination of research and assessment findings will increasingly reach key customers and result in educational improvement.

Investing in education research and evaluation contributes to our understanding of and efforts to improve education. Because of its potential to influence the well-being of the nation's youth, education research must meet the highest professional standards of scientific inquiry so that results are trustworthy. The Department, in collaboration with the National Educational Research Policy and Priority Board, is developing standards to assure that supported activities are of the highest professional excellence. To ensure its relevance and application, research must remain firmly rooted in the everyday experience of students and teachers and the reality of schools. The Department also supports a variety of national dissemination activities that make available to educators, parents, and policymakers--as well as ED program staff--the best research-based information on educational practice.

Core Strategies:

Objective 4.4: Our information technology investments are sound and used to improve impact and efficiency.

Performance Indicators:

  1. All major information systems needing repair will be converted to Year 2000 compliance on or before the end of 1998 (giving time for validation and testing during 1998 and 1999).
  2. At least 90% of all employees will assess productivity as "significantly improved" as a result of available technology, as shown by the employee survey in 2000.
  3. All Information Technology Investment Review Board assessments will show that major information systems are mission-driven, cost-effective, consistent with our information technology architecture, and supported by performance-based contracts.
  4. The data-reporting burden on the public will be reduced annually.

The Department's information systems, consisting of data, software, hardware, and telecommunications, will be integrated and promote cost effectiveness and efficiency. Employees will access the Department's reliable local and wide area network from standards-based workstations using modern, accessible, personal productivity software and hardware tools. Management of the data and systems processes will be closer to the user. Data warehousing will allow information to be shared among internal and external customers with increasing ease and with adequate security precautions to protect privacy and confidentiality.

Through the construction of an Education Enterprise Data Model, the Department will identify data requirements and use them to develop a departmental information architecture. This model and architecture will be designed so that redundancy is eliminated for new information systems, data will be captured once--where and when it is needed--and easily used by internal and external customers. Use of the Internet will enable increased public access to ED information and permit processing business transactions electronically.

Core Strategies:

Objective 4.5: The Department's employees are highly skilled and high- performing.

Performance Indicators:

  1. By 2000, 75% of Department managers will agree that staff knowledge and skills are adequate to carry out the Department's mission.
  2. By 2000, 75% of employees will demonstrate the basic computer competencies identified in the Department's computer competency standards.
  3. By 2000, most employees will indicate satisfaction with their work environment (e.g., physical surroundings, noise level, air quality), security, and accessibility.
  4. By 2000, most employees and managers will express high satisfaction with assistance on resolving employee disputes, and disputes will be closed quickly and informally whenever possible.
  5. Expert review of the quality of Department-sponsored employee training will show that the training is among the best in the federal government and is comparable to the best in the private sector.
  6. By 2001 at least 70% of ED employees will agree that the multi-evaluator General Performance Appraisal System (GPAS) improves individual employee performance and development and aligns employee goals with the overall mission of the Department.

High-performing organizations are characterized by workers who understand and support the mission of the organization in which they work. Individuals are valued as contributors to the organization's mission, and the organization provides continuous learning opportunities to the extent possible. Over the next five years, the Office of Management will provide leadership in expanding the capacity of employees to perform the mission of the Department, and providing the best possible working conditions to support the Department's mission.

The results of the Department's 1996 Employee Survey highlighted the need for additional work on transforming the Department into a high-performing organization. For example, the survey found dissatisfaction with the Department's dispute resolution processes. The survey also identified a perceived inequity between services, including training and facilities, for employees in the regions versus headquarters. Low satisfaction with the physical work environment was indicated in both the 1993 and 1996 employee surveys. Strategies and performance measures have been developed to help make improvements in these areas and to assess whether recent innovations, including the multi-input performance appraisal system, have increased productivity and morale.

Core Strategies:

Objective 4.6: Management of our programs and services ensures financial integrity.

Performance Indicators:

  1. By 2000 the Education Central Automated Processing System (EDCAPS) will be fully implemented and providing assistant secretaries, the Chief Financial and Chief Information Officer, and program managers with consistent, timely, and reliable financial and program information, through an assessment by the Information Technology Investment Review Board.
  2. Evaluation of contracts will indicate that better than fully successful performance, including quality, cost control, timeliness, and other factors, is being received by the government and the taxpayer.
  3. Auditors will issue a clean opinion on the Department-wide annual financial statements every year.
We must ensure that taxpayer dollars are used effectively as intended by the Administration and Congress, and that fraud, waste and abuse are at a minimum. To obtain reliable results, systems must be in place to provide reliable and timely information. The Education Department's Central Automated Processing System--currently being developed--will satisfy that need.

For the past four years, the Department has received disclaimers of audit opinions because of our auditor's concerns with the integrity of the data supporting our cost estimates for the Federal Family Education Loan Program. We will not be satisfied with the financial management and program accountability in this department until we receive consistently unqualified audit opinions. The Department has also worked to improve management and delivery of federal student financial assistance, as described earlier in Objective 3.3.

Core Strategies:

Objective 4.7: All levels of the agency are fully performance-driven.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Employees will recognize the strategic plan as meaningful and understand how their work supports achieving the plan's goals and objectives.
  2. Senior leadership and managers' reviews of performance indicator data will result in appropriate follow-up actions.
  3. Independent assessments will verify that all large and selected other ED programs have comprehensive, high-quality performance measurement systems that are used for program improvement and accountability by 2000.
  4. By 2000 all ED program managers will assert that the data used for their program's performance measurement are reliable and valid or will have plans for improvement.
  5. Managers will agree that policy, budget, and resource allocation decisions are aligned with the strategic priorities of the Department.

The Government Performance and Results Act ("the Results Act") provides the Department with strong support and guidance for new ways of operating and improving our programs. Its focus on results affects all aspects of an organization and its operations-drafting legislation and regulations, ensuring program quality and financial integrity, conducting employee appraisals and assessment, measuring program performance, and more. Two critical elements in this process are:

When orienting our program management to focus on results, it is important to consider the specific context in which we carry out our mission. When carrying out its programs and policy initiatives, the Department operates in a broad, multi-level system of education providers and community interests. Program outcomes for education are almost always the joint results of state, local, institutional, and federal efforts, rather than of federal programs acting in isolation.

Core Strategies:

U.S. Department of Education's
Customer Service Standards

(Issued June 1996)

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If you are a prospective grant applicant or existing grantee, or if you are a prospective or current recipient of student financial assistance:

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