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:

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.

Accomplishments: Streamlining the Agency

An increasingly streamlined Department of Education is more cost-efficient in providing education support and services.

Accomplishments: Improved Performance

A more effective Department of Education can better serve the public:

Accomplishments: Partnerships

A Department with strengthened partnerships is better able to achieve national educational priorities.

Strategic Plan Goals and Indicators

This strategic plan sets out four goals for the U.S. Department of Education:

  1. Help all students reach challenging academic standards so that they are prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment.
  2. Build a solid foundation for learning for all children.
  3. Ensure access to postsecondary education and lifelong learning.
  4. 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.

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] [Table of Contents] [U.S. Department of Education Framework of Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives]