An Evaluation of the Participation of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in U.S. Department of Education Discretionary Grant Programs and as Supplemental Educational Services Providers
Executive Summary -- (without Exhibits)

Historically, faith-based organizations (FBOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) have been involved in the provision of social services, such as drug treatment, job training, community redevelopment, housing, and education. However, FBOs and CBOs have not often participated in U.S. Department of Education (the Department) grant programs. In 2001, the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (Center) was created within the Department to "break down existing barriers and empower faith-based and community groups, enlisting them in support of the Department's mission to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence for all Americans." Since then, the Center has worked to promote participation by faith-based and community organizations (collectively referred to as FBCOs) in Department programs. This evaluation examines three questions:

  1. Are FBCOs as successful as non-FBCOs in winning discretionary grants?
  2. Has the quality of programs funded by the Department, as measured by applicant scores, increased from fiscal year (FY) 2001 to FY 2004 as a result of FBCO participation in the grant application process?
  3. How many FBOs have been approved by states as supplemental educational services (SES) providers under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended?

To address questions one and two, the report presents data on three federally administered grant programs—Community Technology Centers (CTC), the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP), and Mentoring Programs (Mentoring). Although these programs are markedly different in purpose and scope, they were selected for this report for three reasons: (1) the Department has worked actively to promote FBCO involvement in these programs; (2) FBCO participation in the three programs is large enough to permit analysis; and (3) the programs have run new award competitions since the inception of the Center in 2001. At the time of selection, CTC, PEP, and Mentoring were the only Department programs that met all three criteria for inclusion. The data used in these analyses derive from two sources: the Grant Award Database and the Grant Administration and Payment System database (GAPS). The Grant Award Database includes all records of applications received during an award competition. GAPS contains applicant information and the average score assigned by the three-person team that reviewed each application.

This report also presents data on the number of FBOs that have received approval to provide SES. (CBO data not available.) From December 2002 through May 2005, the Department collected monthly information on state-approved SES providers.

Main Findings

Between FY 2002 and FY 2004, applications from FBCOs to CTC, PEP and Mentoring increased. In FY 2004, FBCOs comprised a greater proportion of the applicants for CTC and PEP grants than in FY 2002. Additionally, the proportion of FBCO applicants for Mentoring grants remained fairly consistent (Exhibit E-1).

The success rates for FBCO applicants to PEP and Mentoring have, with the exception of FY 2003, remained fairly stable while they declined for FBCO applicants to the CTC grant program. Both PEP and CTC saw large increases in the percentages of FBCO applicants that received grants in FY 2003. The percentage of successful FBCO applicants for CTC grants, however, declined from 7 percent in FY 2002 to 4 percent in FY 2004. In FY 2002 and FY 2004, the percentages of FBCO applicants to receive grants under PEP and Mentoring were fairly constant (Exhibit E-2).

The participation of FBCOs is associated with an increase in the pool of higher-quality applicants to PEP and Mentoring as measured by applicant scores; the evidence for CTC is neutral. Among the top-scoring applicants, gaps between FBCOs and non-FBCOs in PEP application scores closed considerably from FY 2002 to FY 2004. In Mentoring, the top FBCO applicants shared similar scores to the top non-FBCO applicants in both competition years. These trends suggest that competition among the applicants most likely to receive awards (e.g., those with the highest scores) increased as a result of FBCO participation in the PEP and Mentoring competitions. In the CTC program, however, gaps between FBCO and non-FBCO application scores at the higher ends of their distributions persisted from FY 2001 to FY 2004, indicating that FBCO participation was not necessarily associated with an improvement in the pool of higher-quality applicants to this program.

The report uses overall applicant scores as the measure of quality and does not evaluate the criteria by which the applicants are judged in the scoring process. In competitions for new awards, applicants receive scores based on several factors, including the degree to which their proposal meets program requirements and other aspects that may not directly relate to implementation. The Department may establish a competitive preference for a grant program. In competitions with competitive preferences, applicants are eligible to receive points in addition to the usual 100 points available based on selection criteria. When assessing applicant scores in this report, the scores reflect the peer reviewer scores plus any competitive preference.

States approved an increasing number of faith-based organizations as supplemental educational services providers between December 2002, when states first began approving SES providers, and March 2005. The number of faith-based SES providers increased twenty-fold (from 11 to 261), while the total number of approved SES providers increased fourfold (from 662 to 2,689) during this time period. Furthermore, the proportion of SES providers that are FBOs increased from 2 percent of all providers to 10 percent. Lastly, the number of states that have approved FBOs as SES providers grew from six in December 2002 to 29 in January 2005. Throughout this report, the District of Columbia is classified under the term "state."

The lack of available data prevented more in-depth analyses of several important topics, especially the participation of FBCO partnerships in federal grant programs and as SES providers. Nonprofits, including faith-based and community-based organizations, can join with local districts, states, colleges and universities, and national organizations to apply for federal grants. In such cases, the Department records the participation of the lead applicant only and not the FBCO (Exhibit E-3).

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Last Modified: 12/18/2007