Department of Education

Agency Reinvention Activities

Improving the management of the Department of Education (ED) and achieving the National Education Goals are top priorities for Secretary Richard Riley and Deputy Secretary Madeleine Kunin. They believe that reforming the educational system should start "at home," by turning the department into a model government agency that continuously improves management practices and provides national leadership and assistance to states and communities as they seek to improve the educational system for all Americans.

The department, however, has inherited significant management problems that ultimately affect program outcomes, e.g., the shortfall in the Pell Grant program, mismanagement of student loan repayments, lack of appropriate oversight of programs, outmoded technology for basic staff functions, and low morale of the department's staff. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the General Accounting Office, the ED Office of the Inspector General, and ED employees have identified a myriad of problems that reinvention can address.

To systematically reform the department, Secretary Riley and Deputy Secretary Kunin have developed an action plan calling for the department to set goals, strategically plan to meet those goals, put comprehensive initiatives into place, and test regularly to ensure that progress is being made. Goals are being addressed through policy and management actions.

Policy Actions

The Secretary's major policy initiatives include:

--- Defining key educational goals for the nation through the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. This legislation outlines a vision for American education and provides a clear direction for the department: to assist every state, community, and school to set its sights on high standards.

--- Reshaping the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, through the congressional reauthorization process, so that states, communities, and schools can provide access to a comprehensive system of related programs that will support all students in achieving high educational goals.

--- Focusing legislation on the critical, but long neglected, transition from school to work--a vital part of the development of a world-class workforce. The Department of Education and the Department of Labor have been working collaboratively for several months to set the groundwork for the development of a comprehensive system for the transition from school to work. Funding from the two departments will be used by states and localities to initiate planning and implementation efforts. Activities at the federal level will include research, evaluation, and technical assistance.

--- Reducing and eliminating programs that contribute least toward achieving the National Goals and high educational standards for all Americans. The President's budget asks Congress to cut back spending in low-priority programs and to eliminate 24 programs that have already achieved their purposes, duplicate other programs, or fall outside the scope of the federal role in education. --- Reducing, through the Direct Loan Program, the percentage of student loan dollars used by lenders for administrative purposes, so that more funds can go directly to students.

--- Moving away from audit-type compliance monitoring toward performance measurement that emphasizes program improvement. By providing grantees with performance as well as compliance information early in the grant process, and providing technical assistance during implementation, the department aims to reduce the need for audits and legalistic reviews.

--- Ensuring adherence to the laws that guarantee equal access to education. The department must make full use of limited enforcement resources and also develop innovative remedies and preventive approaches to ensure equal access.

Management Actions

The Secretary and the Deputy Secretary have taken steps to improve management systems within the department. Their focus is on information resources management, financial management, and human resource management. Through a variety of improvement teams and reinvention activities, with representation from support and program offices, they are working to create an organizational culture that values continuous improvement.

The strategic planning initiative is a top priority within the department and two new structures have been created to support and institutionalize it.

The Executive Management Committee advises the Deputy Secretary on general management and strategic planning issues and ensures coordination of departmentwide policy and management activities. The Committee, chaired by the Deputy Secretary, consists of the department's senior political leadership.

The Reinvention Coordinating Council initiates and oversees the department's reinvention and quality improvement efforts. Its membership includes an equal number of Senate-confirmed political appointees and senior career employees representing all parts of the department to build partnerships among support and program offices. The Council meets at least weekly. Its activities, to date, include designing a framework for effective implementation of the Goals 2000 legislation, coordinating and overseeing the work of all cross- cutting department committees and work groups, and working with the National Performance Review team.

A departmentwide strategic planning effort has been initiated with completion scheduled for early in fiscal year 1994. Each Principal Office (the 17 major offices in the department) has been asked to define its mission, goals, and objectives, and to link those with the overall mission, goals, and priorities of the department. Further, each office will establish performance indicators so that progress toward its goals can be measured. A critical part of the strategic planning process is to engage all ED staff in defining and implementing a meaningful plan for action.

Secretary Riley and Deputy Secretary Kunin have communicated to both the incoming political leadership and senior career officials that improving internal management is a high priority. A management retreat for senior officers was conducted to clarify the organizational mission and priorities and to begin to build working relationships among senior team members.

Improving Department Management Operations

To build cooperation and collaboration on issues that cut across offices, the Reinvention Coordinating Council is chartering quality improvement teams with representation from support and program offices. Teams have been chartered to improve: (1) personnel classification procedures; (2) processes for receiving and responding to employee complaints to Building Services; (3) the non-competitive grant continuation application process and the funded programs; and (4) the development and issuance of regulations for discretionary grant programs. Surveys are being conducted by the teams to identify the expectations and needs of ED staff. Preliminary results and recommendations are expected in September 1993. Another team-- focusing on the Secretarial initiative to further the implementation of Goals 2000--has been chartered to develop strategies for meeting the National Education Goals at the federal, state, and local levels.

To enhance communication among department offices, the ED local area computer network (ED-LAN) will be provided to 2,300 ED staff by the end of September 1993, and to remaining headquarters staff by the end of fiscal year 1994. Half of the regional staff will be connected to the LAN in fiscal 1994 and the remainder in fiscal 1995. By fiscal 1994, Internet, a major "network of networks" including colleges and universities, will be accessible through the LAN, providing the department with the capacity to communicate with more than 10 million users inside and outside of government.

Financial Management Improvements

Five high-risk management areas have been identified by the department for improvement. The Management Audit Committee, chaired by the Deputy Secretary, meets regularly to resolve the most significant audit areas and to facilitate the handling of audit resolution and follow-up. Progress is reported to the Secretary through the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA) process. The department is also working to reduce the paperwork burden on states and localities.

The department is redesigning its core financial management systems to ensure that data from accounting, grants, contracts, payments, and other systems are integrated into a single system. The agency has also taken steps to improve its performance in cash management, including instituting improved quality controls.

Specific Reinvention Projects

Reinvention Laboratories have been formed to target key department concerns in two areas: (1) the development and use of performance measures in management and program improvement, and (2) the collection of outstanding debts in student financial aid.

The Performance Measurement Laboratory is intended to create a Total Organization Performance System (TOPS) that will enable the department to answer key questions about the performance of programs and its own operation--such as whether vocational education programs improve the skills and jobs of participants, whether regulations are readable, and whether demonstration and capacity building programs produce results beyond the mere funding of grantees.

TOPS will involve all 17 ED offices in a systematic effort to obtain performance indicators for the major programs and support functions of the department. Project staff will work with top management to link performance measurement directly to the department's strategic planning, budget, financial management, legislative, and evaluation activities, and to coordinate information across programs.

Two groups--one internal, the other external--will review the department's work in this area. The Monitoring and Performance Measurement Team--a departmental team of Assistant Secretaries and their representatives charged with developing strategies for improving monitoring and performance measurement--will review the performance measures of all Principal Offices and serve as a forum to develop staff capability. The Evaluation Review Panel, an independent, external evaluation board (with members nominated by the National Academy of Sciences and other educational research and evaluation organizations) will provide a second-level review of the measures.

While performance indicators were previously available for some of the larger programs, data collected on these measures often remained unused and unanalyzed. Now, the development of performance measures has begun in the majority of Principal Offices--both support and program offices--and early reports are promising. Action plans for using performance data have been developed for some programs. Support offices in the department that had not previously examined their own performance are reporting success in defining their mission, goals, and objectives as first steps.

The Department of Education is responsible for managing several student loan programs. Most of these programs have been plagued by high default rates. The Department's record of collecting debts in a timely and efficient manner could be improved. Creation of the Debt Collection Service Laboratory is intended to transform the practices of the Debt Collection Service (DCS), a unit within the Office of Postsecondary Education. The goals for a reinvented DCS are as follows:

--- Performance measurement and accountability. DCS will be accountable in terms of net revenues produced, dollar recovery rates, and customer satisfaction.

--- Self-supporting. DCS will explore ways to finance itself entirely out of the revenue it generates.

--- Incentives. DCS will consider strategies for introducing gainsharing and other productivity-increasing and worker-empowering incentives.

--- New collections strategies. DCS will develop new collections strategies and will pursue options more vigorously.

--- Workforce excellence. DCS will be a test site for creative approaches to hiring, classification, and compensation.

Lessons Learned

Some early lessons learned through ED's reinvention activities include: (1) the need for sustained top management support and visibility; (2) the value of taking a comprehensive approach to internal management by integrating strategic planning and performance measurement with other key administrative activities, such as budgeting, legislation, and evaluation; and (3) the necessity to identify short-term goals as well as long-term goals to improve management. Programs are reporting the benefits of developing their missions, goals, and objectives--a first-time activity for many. Further lessons will be learned as performance data become available- -lessons that can be applied in the budget and reauthorization cycles.

Return To Report Index

Who We Are |||Latest Additions |||Initiatives |||Customer Service |||News Room |||Accomplishments |||Awards |||"How To" Tools |||Library |||Web Links

Reinvention Comments
Technical Comments