Department of Education FY 2012 E-Government Act Report
October 19, 2012
Archived Information

Section 1 - Highlights of Agency E-Government Activities

A. Enhanced Delivery of Information and Services to the Public
Integrated Student Experience

The Integrated Student Experience program, composed of StudentAid.gov, new media, and mobile interfaces, was released in July 2012. This initiative improves the customer experience by leveraging technology more effectively to better meet the demands of customers and to improve efficiency, expand access to higher education, and support customer decision making. The program is the Department’s signature initiative in response to Executive Order 13571 on improving and streamlining customer service.

StudentAid.gov is the first phase in a project to consolidate Federal Student Aid’s web presence. This release allowed for the decommissioning of five websites, resulting in significant cost savings (over $1.5 million) and streamlined internal processes. Content from across FSA’s student- and borrower-facing web portals and publications was reviewed, streamlined and rewritten to ensure plain language. StudentAid.gov was developed on an open-source content management system and uses a responsive design for the site to be accessed on any device. Future phases will continue to consolidate functionality from other FSA websites to further reduce the access points for students/borrowers, eliminate confusion, and increase financial literacy. StudentAid.gov has received over 8 million unique visits in the three months since its launch and is expected to serve over 30 million annual visitors. Mobile visits account for 11% of traffic. Customer feedback is closely monitored, and enhancements are planned based on feedback and usability testing.

As part of the Integrated Student Experience, FSA released and updated digital properties to interact with its customers where they are – on new media. A Facebook page was launched, and Twitter and YouTube pages were updated to continue to reach customers with engaging content. FSA is also engaging users on Twitter with its @FAFSA Twitter handle. And “#AskFAFSA Office Hours” is hosted once a month, where Twitter users can pose questions to FSA employees or subject matter experts and receive live answers on Twitter.

What Works Clearinghouse

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) plays a key role in the Department's efforts to help educators, researchers, and the general public access and use evidence about the effectiveness of education interventions. During FY12, the WWC embarked on a major redesign of the website (http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/) to improve its functionality and make it easier for a first-time user to navigate. The WWC also used the website to deliver much quicker reviews of studies that receive notable mention in the press.

The WWC website's new search function allows visitors to search for reports on effectiveness by topic area (e.g. elementary math); intervention; grade level; outcomes; and student subpopulations. This search process allows the visitor to quickly customize a search. For novice users, the website has a "Not sure where to start? Let us help you search" function that guides the visitor through the search process.

Based on user testing, the WWC home page was simplified. WWC visitors can now look at new products (on a rotator banner); search; or look at materials designed for a particular audience (educators; researchers; everyone).

The WWC website became the delivery system for a new, quicker review of studies featured in news articles. Quick Reviews provide the public with the WWC's assessments of the evidence in studies mentioned in the press. Preliminary assessments are provided on the website (and advertised via newsflash and Facebook). The time-to-press for these Quick Reviews has been reduced from 3-4 months on average to 10-12 days. The website also provides the final, definitive WWC assessment of study quality.

B. Capital Planning and Investment Control Procedures for IT

Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC) is a process the Department uses for managing the risks and returns associated with IT initiatives. This integrated management process is focused on achieving business outcomes and provides a mechanism for the continuous selection, control, and evaluation of IT initiatives.

The three phases of CPIC can be further described as follows:

  • Select Phase: The process to determine priorities and make decisions about which initiatives to include in the IT portfolio.
  • Control Phase: An ongoing management process that monitors the progress of initiatives against projected cost, schedule, performance, and expected mission benefits.
  • Evaluate Phase: The process in which the Department uses actual versus expected results of fully implemented investments to assess the initiative's impact on strategic performance; identify any needed changes to the initiative; and revise the investment management processes based on lessons learned.

The Department draws upon industry best practices and key success factors of comparable IT investment management programs, including: top management involvement in ITIM policy and implementation; integration with key programs, including enterprise architecture, IT security, performance management, procurement, and budget service; a thorough understanding of ITIM requirements by leaders and staff; and adequate IT project management and investment management training.

The Department relates investment management processes to business needs and quantifies benefits in terms of achieving mission goals. By doing so, the processes are geared toward long-term needs of the enterprise and not current IT initiatives.

  • Partner IT organizations with business units, ensuring that business objectives and requirements drive architecture and technology initiatives, not vice versa. Furthermore, technology should emphasize business value and solutions rather than technical sophistication.
  • Obtain the executive support of the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and other Senior Officers for ITIM processes.
  • Maintain effective review boards that are properly chartered, supported, and meet regularly
  • Organize the decision-making process into two different reviews:
    1. investment health, including how the initiative performs toward cost, schedule, and performance goals, and
    2. investment value, including how much of the available budget should be allocated.

One initiative, the Budget Formulation and Execution Line of Business (BFELoB), for which the Department is the managing partner, has created a community that allows any government agency to avoid costs associated with creating, operating and maintaining a world-class collaboration service. The select, control and evaluate phases within the CPIC process benefit the BFELoB investment 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 BFELoB 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 BFELoB 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 BFELoB investment over several key program management criteria. The program assessment helps the Department identify troubled management areas in the investment, make 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 BFELoB program assessment (2012) the total assessment score was 2.85 out of 3.0. 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 3.0 out of 3.0.

Section 2 - Compliance with Goals and Provisions of the Act

A. Performance Integration

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; and 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. Education senior executives develop value drivers in specific performance areas: Strategic Plan alignment; cost reduction/avoidance; productivity and efficiency; and 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

The 2010 National Education Technology Plan demonstrates the importance of educators becoming more connected to resources, tools, colleagues, experts, and learning activities, both within and beyond schools.

In collaboration with a wide range of educational organizations, the Connected Online Communities of Practice project is increasing the quality, accessibility, and connectedness of existing and emerging online communities of practice through four types of activities:

  • Launching and leading new online communities of practice that address pressing needs in education and help us learn more about how such communities work best,
  • Conducting design experiments within “testbeds,” online communities of practice run by collaborating organizations in which project staff will develop, facilitate, and evaluate selected content and activities that help address pressing questions,
  • Undertaking case studies of both interesting communities of practice and of individual educational professionals’ use of online communities and other forms of social media to connect, and
  • Developing ideas about new designs and infrastructure that could better support educators in making productive connections.
D. Credentialing

In FY12, the Department of Education published an Identity, Credential, and Access Management (ICAM) Roadmap that aligns with the Federal ICAM initiative aimed at addressing the gap between technology concept, maturation, and adoption; driving the need for interoperability of solutions; allowing for the evolution of capabilities to accommodate future needs; and ensuring solutions are secure, resilient, cost effective, and easy to use.

The Department has implemented Physical Access Control Systems (PACS) for systems hosted on the network and established a basis for implementing Logical Access Control Systems (LACS) for information technology systems. Current LACS implementations at the Department are not centrally managed and provisioned. The Department’s target state will use PIV credentials for PACS and LACS, and programs whose constituencies are primarily Federal employees will utilize capabilities of the PIV card for access control. The issuance process for PIV cards will leverage common services through automated interfaces to improve efficiency in PIV processes.

To support the transition to the target state, the Department has drafted an identity management concept of operations and system security policy, as well as initiated implementation of enterprise identity management services, which provide the foundation for improved trust and interoperability among the Department, other federal agencies and other external communities.

E. USA.gov activities
F. eRulemaking

The Department continues to seek greater and more useful public participation in its rulemaking activities through the use of transparent and interactive rulemaking procedures and new technologies. The Department participates in www.regulations.gov (Regulations.gov), an electronic, single, Government-wide access point that enables the public to submit comments on Federal regulatory documents and to read and respond to comments from the public. 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 FY12, after a three-month regulatory negotiation with the affected community, the Department published Federal Student Aid proposed regulations under title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. We received 2891 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 day or night. 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 ever before.

G. National Archives Records Administration (NARA) Recordkeeping

The Department complies with all NARA policies for the management of electronic records, including online records. The Department has currently scheduled 82 electronic information systems. It has another 10 records schedules under development, with approximately 15 electronic information systems remaining to be scheduled, including the agency’s Internet and intranet websites. The Department has developed mandatory all-employee records management training that includes specific requirements for managing electronic records, including email records. A Department-wide internal evaluation of component records management programs is under way and will assess adherence to the agency’s policies and procedures for managing electronic records. The Department is currently conducting 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.

H. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
I. Privacy Policy and Privacy Impact Assessments
J. Information Resources Management Strategic Plan
K. Public Access to Electronic Information
L. Research and Development (R&D)
  • 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.
M. Privacy

The Privacy Safeguards Division (PSD) 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 PRA collection is initiated, the PSD works with the system owner (SO) to conduct a PIA and post it to ED.gov. If changes to a system create new privacy risks, the PSD 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, the PSD works with the project lead to develop and post a privacy policy addressing all elements in OMB directives. Our process for performing and updating PIAs for IT systems is as follows: To determine the necessary privacy documentation, the PSD 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, the PSD provides the SO with the PIA template, and the SO completes. The PSD then collaborates with the CIO, Office of General Counsel, and Records Management to address any issues. Changes are communicated with the SO, who updates the PIA, collects internal signatures, and returns the final draft to the PSD. Systems with social security numbers require additional approval. The Chief Privacy Officer signs the document, and it is posted to ED.gov.

N. IT Training Programs

The Privacy Safeguards and Information Assurance Programs develop and update general IT security and privacy training 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.

The Department uses a mobility assignment program (MAP) as one piece of its overall career development strategy, which includes formal details and developmental assignments, classroom as well as on-the job training, individual career counseling, Individual Development Planning, and special programs such as the Upward Mobility Program, the Mentoring Program, and other leadership development programs.

Performance management is one of the Department’s top priorities. It is a results-oriented process to help 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. Competency reviews for the agency’s IT workforce are performed as part of the Department’s overall performance management system.

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Last Modified: 02/11/2013