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The Ratings Game

If recent federal evaluations are a reliable judge, the Department of Education has some serious work to do in making its programs work better.

Of 33 programs assessed over the past two years, only two at the federal agency were deemed "effective."

Once again, the Bush administration this year released the findings from its recently developed Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART. The system is used by the White House Office of Management and Budget to analyze the success—or lack thereof—of federal programs.

With the president's fiscal 2005 budget request, the White House included 19 new evaluations of Education Department programs, as well as 14 from the year before.

The OMB deemed "effective" the National Assessment of Title I and the National Center for Education Statistics. Nine programs were rated "adequate."

The majority of the Education Department's evaluated programs—17—were found to have "results not demonstrated." And the lowest rating, "ineffective," went to five programs.

Education Department officials have said the evaluation tool is useful both in improving weak programs and in making judgments about shifting money to more effective ones.

The $247 million Even Start family-literacy program, rated "ineffective," was targeted for outright elimination by Mr. Bush in his fiscal 2005 request. That proposal has prompted some protests in Congress. In fact, its full name is the William F. Goodling Even Start Family Literacy Program, named after the retired Republican chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

The state grants for special education program, which President Bush proposes to give a $1 billion increase in fiscal 2005, was among those labeled by the OMB as "results not demonstrated."

Meanwhile, the $234 million Comprehensive School Reform program got an "adequate" rating. While "adequate" might not make the program sound like a shining star, it's not bad when compared to the overall evaluations.

But that rating apparently wasn't very impressive to the president, who once again is asking Congress to liquidate the program.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 23, Issue 23, Page 36

Published in Print: February 18, 2004, as Federal File

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