Observations on the Department of Education's Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan

Gao ID: HEHS-99-136R July 20, 1999

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the fiscal year (FY) 2000 performance plan for the Department of Education, focusing on: (1) assessing the usefulness of the agency's plan for decisionmaking; and (2) identifying the degree of improvement the agency's FY 2000 performance plan represents over its FY 1999 plan.

GAO noted that: (1) Education's FY 2000 performance plan provides: (a) a general picture of intended performance across the agency; (b) a general discussion of strategies and resources the agency will use to achieve its goals; and (c) general confidence that agency performance information will be credible; (2) for example, most performance indicators in the plan include baseline or trend data and projections against which to assess performance; (3) similarly, the description of each objective includes a discussion of how external factors, such as the level of state and local funding for schools, will affect Education's ability to achieve the objective; (4) Education's FY 2000 performance plan shows moderate improvement in addressing the weaknesses GAO identified in its assessment of its FY 1999 plan; (5) in reviewing the 1999 plan, GAO observed that it: (a) did not provide a complete picture of the intended performance of its programs; (b) did not fully discuss how strategies and resources would help achieve its performance goals; and (c) did not provide sufficient confidence that its elementary and secondary education performance information would be credible; and (6) among the most important improvements, the FY 2000 plan: (a) includes baselines or trend data for most performance indicators; (b) identifies within individual program performance plans the strategic objectives the program supports; (c) adds discussions of how external factors impact each objective; (d) rewrites some key strategies to more closely show their relationship to the objective they support; (e) adds more detailed discussion of Education's strategies and timelines for improving its performance information; and (f) discusses the data limitations for 97 of the 98 total performance indicators.

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