Teacher Training

Over $1.5 Billion Federal Funds Invested in Many Programs Gao ID: T-HEHS-99-117 May 5, 1999

Thirteen federal agencies run 87 programs that support elementary and secondary teacher training. Four of these agencies administer 12 programs that are designed exclusively to support teacher training. Other agencies administer programs that also support other activities or that allow teacher training that is not significant compared with other program activities. The Department of Education's programs account for about 87 percent of total funding. Among the ways the programs support training are paying for training-related materials, such as books and teaching strategies, and teachers' travel expenses for attending conferences. The majority of programs support training for teachers who already teach rather than people preparing to become teachers. Knowing whether programs are achieving desired results is not easy because of the number of agencies and programs and because a significant portion of the federal investment is made through programs that have objectives broader than only supporting teacher training. GAO plans to assess whether the programs are effectively configured to achieve national goals by reviewing agencies' performance plans and strategic plans under the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's preliminary results indicate that 13 agencies administer 87 programs, which support teacher training to varying degrees; (2) the Department of Education administers the majority of these programs; (3) the programs support training in a variety of ways, including paying for training-related materials, such as books on teaching strategies, and teachers' travel expenses associated with attending conferences; (4) federal funding for teacher training is estimated to exceed $1.5 billion during fiscal year 1999; (5) Education's programs account for 86 percent of total funding; (6) over $579 million will be provided by programs that agencies classified as focusing exclusively on supporting teacher training; (7) about $933 million will be provided by programs that agencies classified as supporting teacher training to a significant degree; (8) for example, according to Education, teacher training is an important activity of the title I program, but the program's primary purpose is broader--to provide services to educationally disadvantaged children; (9) funding estimates are generally unavailable for programs where teacher training is an allowable but not a significant activity; (10) the number and diverse nature of programs--as well as the number of agencies responsible for administering them--create challenges in determining whether the programs are achieving national goals; (11) coordination among programs and agencies as well as the conduct of program evaluations are essential, given the diversity of existing programs; (12) the Government Performance and Results Act can provide a structured approach to such coordination and evaluation activities and help measure progress toward achieving national goals; and (13) agencies' annual performance plans can provide important information on how agencies are tracking and evaluating program results.

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