Published Online: October 23, 2007
Published in Print: October 24, 2007, as Report Card Time for Research Arm of Education Dept.

Federal File

Report Card Time for Research Arm of Education Dept.

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The Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the Department of Education, is the latest department program to get an “effective” rating from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Over the past four years, the OMB has reviewed more than 1,000 federal programs, categorizing them as “effective,” “moderately effective,” “adequate,” “ineffective,” or “results not demonstrated.” The results are published on a Web site, at www.expectmore.gov.

So far, only 18 percent of the programs reviewed across the federal government have gotten the coveted “effective” rating. At the Education Department, where the OMB has so far evaluated 92 programs, only four others got that distinction.

The kicker, though, is that two of the other four top-rated programs—the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the National Center for Education Statistics—are part of the IES.

“I’m very pleased,” IES Director Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst said earlier this month. “It’s an independent rating, and OMB has very high standards.”

The other two Education Department programs with an effective rating are Reading First and adult education.

Another 50 programs in the department have received either “ineffective” or “results not demonstrated” ratings, which means they have yet to show that they are performing up to par. The performance of 29 others was judged “adequate.”


Some critics contend that the ratings system, which is based on the government’s Program Rating Assessment Tool, unfairly singles out some federal programs as potential targets for budget cuts. ("New Web Site Rates Performance of Federal Programs," Feb. 15, 2006.)

For instance, President Bush last year proposed zeroing out grants for the drug-free schools program, vocational education, and Upward Bound for disadvantaged college-bound youths, all of which had been rated ineffective.

So, does a top rating signal the opposite? Is the IES in line for an infusion of federal dollars now that it has passed its evaluation with flying colors?

“Let’s just say that if I were advocating for an increase in budgeting,” Mr. Whitehurst said, “I would much rather have an ‘effective’ score than a ‘results not demonstrated’ one.”

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