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
Mission and Key Functions
The Department of Education's mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation. We promote educational excellence for all students by providing financial support to states and local agencies in areas of national priority, promoting challenging standards, getting families and communities involved in schools, providing information on the best educational practices, ensuring that postsecondary education is affordable, and providing high-quality statistics and evaluations on federal programs.
At the same time, we have a special obligation to ensure that all students have the opportunity to achieve to the challenging standards of educational excellence. This commitment often requires that we focus our resources and activities on students who risk educational failure due to the disadvantages they face. The Department of Education is determined to help students from all backgrounds--regardless of race, national origin, color, disability, age, or gender--to achieve excellence under the American educational system. Where this plan states that "all" students are a focus of a particular objective, it means just that.
To carry out our mission, the Department works in partnership with states, schools, communities, institutions of higher education, and financial institutions--and through them with students, teachers and professors, families, administrators, and employers. Key functions of the agency are as follows:
- Leadership to address critical issues in American education.
- Grants to education agencies and institutions to strengthen teaching and learning and prepare students for citizenship, employment in a changing economy, and lifelong learning.
- Student loans and grants to help pay for the costs of postsecondary education.
- Grants for literacy, employment, and self-sufficiency training for adults.
- Monitoring and enforcement of civil rights to ensure nondiscrimination by recipients of federal education funds.
- Support for statistics, research, development, evaluation, and dissemination of information to improve educational quality and effectiveness.
Prior Strategic Plan
In December 1994 the U.S. Department of Education released its first-ever strategic plan, a working document that served as the forerunner to the current proposed plan. This first plan was widely distributed, both internally to every Department employee and externally to Congress, stakeholder groups, educators, and others interested in the Department's goals and operations. The Department has used the plan to improve its programs and operations and to help employees understand the Department's goals and the importance of their contributions to those goals. That plan reflected priorities and accomplishments described below.
Accomplishments: Legislative Reforms
In partnership with the Congress and the Administration, historic legislative achievements have provided the Department with a more coherent set of laws.
- The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 provide the largest investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill. HOPE Scholarships should help make two years of postsecondary education as universal as high school is today, and tax deductions will support lifelong learning. In addition, new education savings accounts and expanded use of IRAs for education will help families save and pay for college.
- The new Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 improves basic academics, increases parental involvement, and moves federal dollars to the classroom. Students with disabilities will now be expected, to the maximum extent possible, to meet the same high educational expectations that have been set for all students by states and local schools.
- Elementary and secondary education reforms, including the Goals 2000: Educate America Act (1994) and Improving America's Schools Act (1994), promote challenging education standards for all children, safe and disciplined schools, effective teaching practices, expanded technology, charter schools, and stronger family involvement.
- The School-to-Work Opportunities Act (1994) is helping communities and states put in place high-quality systems of academic and occupational education linking schools with postsecondary institutions and employers.
- The Educational Research, Development, Dissemination, and Improvement Act (1994) restructured the Department's research office and set new priorities for dissemination and improvement activities.
- The Student Loan Reform Act (1993) helped make the college student aid system more efficient by authorizing a new Direct Student Loan Program that is giving postsecondary institutions and students expanded choice among alternative aid providers and offering streamlined aid.
Accomplishments: Streamlining the Agency
An increasingly streamlined Department of Education is more cost-efficient in providing education support and services.
- Fewer separate programs. Since 1992, the Department has worked with Congress to eliminate 64 programs totaling more than $700 million.
- Fewer staff/higher productivity. The Department's full-time equivalent staffing level (FTE) in 1997 was 4,613, a decrease of 6% from the 1992 FTE level of 4,927. During the same period, the Department's discretionary budget increased overall by $3.7 billion, a 16% increase.
- Total reinvention of our regulations. To date, the Department has eliminated, reinvented, or simplified almost every regulation on the books in FY 1995--with 94% affected and 36% completely eliminated. More than 2,000 pages of regulations were eliminated, reinvented, or simplified.
- Paperwork burden reduced. In response to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, our paperwork burden was trimmed by 10% during FY 1996, translating into 5.4 million fewer hours for schools, students, parents, states, and other customers to complete required forms. In FY 1997 we are using new technologies for collecting and exchanging information to further reduce paperwork burden on our customers.
- One-stop shopping for information on student loans and grants. The Department's world wide web page receives 5 million hits each month, and our toll-free 1-800-USA-LEARN number provides 5,000 callers a week with access to comprehensive information about Department publications and programs.
Accomplishments: Improved Performance
A more effective Department of Education can better serve the public:
- Efficient loan collections.
- Default rates for student loans have been cut by more than half, from 22.4% for loans entering repayment in 1990 to 15.0% in 1992 to 10.7% for 1994, the most recent year available.
- Collections on defaulted student loans from all sources increased from $1.1 billion in FY 1992 to $2.4 billion in FY 1996.
- Serving student aid customers well.
- Since the start of the Direct Loan program in 1993, over $18 billion has been loaned to students. The Direct Loan program cuts out middlemen and makes loans directly to students, improving service to students and saving the government money. In 1996, 83% of participating institutions reported they were satisfied or very satisfied.
- The customer satisfaction level for the Federal Family Education Loan program, which works through lenders such as banks, increased from 68% in 1994-95 to 79% in 1995-96. This may be due partially to the beneficial competition of the Direct Loan program.
- Ensuring that taxpayers and students get their money's worth. As a result of tougher Department oversight, 875 postsecondary institutions have lost their eligibility to participate in student financial aid programs. Of this number, 672 cannot participate in any aid program and 203 cannot participate in loan programs.
- Well-focused research and statistics. A strengthened research and statistical office is providing more timely and useful information on the condition of the American education system and on research-based improvements.
- Performance indicators. Performance measurement supported through program evaluations, national assessments, and grantee reporting systems is increasingly providing the Department with important information to gauge performance and guide improvement.
- New employee-management partnership. A strengthened Labor-Management Partnership is helping all employees to work together to achieve better results while enabling the Department to win the National Partnership Award in 1996 and the Office of Personnel Management's Family-Friendly Work-Place Award in 1997.
A Department with strengthened partnerships is better able to achieve national educational priorities.
- Flexibility for states.
- Over 200 waivers have been granted to communities to provide greater flexibility in exchange for increased accountability for results under the first time ever waiver authorities in Goals 2000, School-to-Work and the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
- Twelve states have been granted broad authority under Ed-Flex to waive a range of federal statutory or regulatory requirements in exchange for increased accountability for student progress.
- As of 1997, 49 states have submitted consolidated program plans covering several Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs and federal vocational education grants, instead of separate plans for each program.
- Partnerships for families and communities.
- More than 3,000 organizations now participate in the "Partnership for Family Involvement in Education." The partnership brings together schools, families, communities, religious organizations, and employers to work together to support learning.
- READ*WRITE*NOW, a grassroots community literacy initiative that links tutors with children who need help learning to read, has grown from serving 500,000 children in 1994 to 1.5 million in 1997.
Strategic Plan Goals and Indicators
This strategic plan sets out four goals for the U.S. Department of Education:
- Help all students reach challenging academic standards so that they are prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment.
- Build a solid foundation for learning for all children.
- Ensure access to postsecondary education and lifelong learning.
- Make ED a high-performance organization by focusing on results, service quality, and customer satisfaction.
These are ambitious goals that reflect areas in which the Department can influence outcomes, even where we do not have direct control. Our plan identifies areas of national need as goals and objectives and sets strategies for the federal government to help meet those needs. At the same time, the plan ensures that in areas where we have direct control--management of our programs, data systems, and workforce--we are as efficient and effective as possible.
Under each goal, the plan identifies several objectives, supported by core strategies and performance indicators. The core strategies comprise key programs, special initiatives, and specific actions that the Department is pursuing to achieve each objective. The performance indicators ensure accountability for results and will provide feedback needed to adjust and improve our operations. The plan includes a mix of outcome and intermediate indicators that we will use during the next five years to judge our progress and document results.
- Outcome indicators tell us whether progress is being made in areas of national need and in the specific goals for our programs. For example, are more children learning to read and complete challenging mathematics? Are school-to-work system graduates able to move smoothly into employment or further education? Are more Americans able to enroll in and complete postsecondary education?
- Intermediate indicators tell us whether our strategies are working and our programs and processes are on track. For example, are new programs reaching the anticipated number of students and states? Is the Department meeting major milestones and deadlines necessary to achieving the goals and objectives?
Next Steps: Communication, Alignment, and Implementation
Communication. Once completed, the Department's plan will be given to all employees in hard copy, as well as featured on the ED website (http://www.ed.gov/pubs/StratPln/). We will also send it to chief state school officers and national associations that work with us on educational reform and improvement. The Deputy Secretary will hold sessions with individual offices to discuss how the plan affects their programs and services, as well as work with the Department's Labor-Management Partnership Council to ensure that every employee understands how their work contributes to achieving the plan's goals and objectives.
Alignment. During fall 1997, and as needed thereafter, key agency documents will be aligned with the strategic plan. These documents include our annual plan (individual program performance plans for about 90 activities in the agency), budget justifications, implementation plans for the Department's seven priority initiatives (cross-cutting plans that involve leadership and program activities), and evaluation plans.
Implementation. Reporting on progress--accomplishments and barriers--will start immediately with the publication of this plan. "Objective leaders"--senior officers responsible for the individual objectives--will report to the Deputy Secretary and senior officers periodically. Also, staff and program offices will work jointly on reviewing progress under the individual program performance plans, which represent major activities and resources for accomplishing the plan's goals. Finally, we will implement analytic agendas for the strategic plan objectives to improve the information base and support implementation of the strategies.
[Facts about the Department of Education]
[U.S. Department of Education Framework of Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives]