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GAO Eyes ED Evaluation Research Overhaul for Federal Model

A new report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative service, suggests the Education Department's new system for studying program effectiveness could be a model for other federal agencies.

The GAO analyzed evaluation research procedures at the departments of education, health, and housing and urban development, finding all three agencies prioritized evaluation research similarly, based on each agency's strategic priorities; concerns about specific programs that arise from audits and elsewhere; unanswered questions from the field; and the agency's resources to conduct a valid study.

Following an internal review of its program evaluations, the Education Department developed an agency-wide planning process for the studies. As of fiscal 2011, the National Center of Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance in ED's research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences, will conduct all long-term program implementation and effectiveness studies of 18 months or longer.

The department's Policy and Program Studies Service, located in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, will focus on studies of less than 18 months, such as policy analysis, performance benchmarking, and knowledge and data use. Specific program offices, such as Title I's Student Achievement and School Accountability Office, may also conduct occasional studies of grant evaluations and performance.

President Obama has proposed in his ESEA reauthorization blueprint that the Education Department submit two-year plans for evaluation studies guided in part by an outside advisory committee.

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