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Education Department Isn’t Very Innovative, Study Finds

By Michele McNeil — April 30, 2013 1 min read

Top officials at the U.S. Department of Education have often bemoaned the lack of innovation in public education, which is one reason the Investing in Innovation program was launched back in 2009 to help spur new ideas to improve student achievement.

Turns out that as a federal agency, the Education Department itself isn’t very innovative either.

A new survey from the Partnership for Public Service reports that Education Department employees give their agency lower-than-average marks for innovation. The department ranked 15th out of 20 mid-size agencies. Ranking first for other mid-size agencies was the Federal Trade Commission, with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission coming in second. Among those faring worse than the Education Department were the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.

Of course, this is a bureaucracy we’re talking about. So, how is innovation for federal agencies defined? It’s measured by employees’ responses to these statements:


  • I am constantly looking for ways to do my job better;
  • I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things;
  • Creativity and innovation are rewarded.


Among large agencies, NASA tops out as most innovative, while the labor and transportation departments come in last.

The survey also breaks down innovation within agencies. So within the Education Department, which office is most innovative, according to employees? The office of the chief financial officer. (Three cheers for acting CFO Thomas Skelly.) Least innovative? The office for civil rights.