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The Department of Education Gives Itself a Pretty Good Report Card

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In the final weeks of Rod Paige’s tenure as secretary of education, his department has released a management review of its programs and given itself high marks.

The report, which is an overview of accomplishments in program areas that range from civil rights to financial aid, essentially concludes that the Department of Education has met its own version of “adequate yearly progress.”

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In a letter dated Nov. 12, just three days before Mr. Paige announced his resignation, the secretary said that this fourth report on the status of the Education Department outlined achievements across the board.

“Each day we get closer to the best in American education, discarding our deficiencies and correcting long-standing problems,” Mr. Paige wrote.

One area that has seen significant improvement under Mr. Paige is the financial management of the department, according to its own “FY 2004 Performance and Accountability Report.” When Mr. Paige took over in 2001, the department had experienced a number of financial scandals, including a theft ring involving several career employees and a problem involving false overtime payments.

Now, the report says, the department has just had its third clean audit in a row. In addition, it says, new management measures have ensured that “many of the processes that previously required Herculean efforts are now routine for fiscal managers.”

But a few things do need work, the report says, including implementation of the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002, which instituted new controls to ensure incorrect government payments are not made. The report also says new efforts are being made to reduce fraud and error in student financial-aid programs. The department also must work on recruiting, hiring and maintaining its workforce, it says.

The report goes beyond financial management to conclude that the department is also succeeding in at least one of its central missions: the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. Schools are improving, and academic gaps between lower-achieving minority students and their white peers, and between economically disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers, are closing in places that have such data, the report says.

The law’s achievements are feeding into an unofficial department motto, the report says: “Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.”

Vol. 24, Issue 14, Page 26

Published in Print: December 1, 2004, as Self-Evaluation

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