Federal agencies must do a better job of coordinating and evaluating their efforts to support education overseas if they are to be effective, the Government Accountability Office concludes in a recent report.
“From 2001 to 2006, there was no governmentwide mechanism to facilitate interagency collaboration, and, as a result, we identified instances where agencies missed opportunities to collaborate and maximize U.S. resources,” says the 75-page document, which analyzes programs in more than 100 countries sponsored by the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Defense, Labor, and State; the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Peace Corps; and the Millennium Challenge Corp., a government corporation that works to reduce global poverty.
During that period, the GAO found, the federal government spent more than $2.2 billion on international ventures specifically targeted at education and an estimated $1 billion on international programs, such as the USDA’s Food for Education and the Peace Corps, that include an education component among other objectives.
But “without effective coordination, donors cannot easily monitor or assess the host government’s progress toward achieving international goals, such as Education for All by 2015, one of State-USAID’s strategic goals,” the report says. The goal of Education for All is universal primary education eight years from now.
According to a letter of response from Sid L. Kaplan, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for resource management and chief financial officer, the department’s director of foreign assistance has begun to address the issue of coordination across federal agencies. At the time of the GAO review, however, officials from several agencies said their respective groups had not been contacted about participating in such coordination.
In addition, the report calls for agencies to improve methods for tracking improvement in educational quality as a result of the federal programs. The current evaluation system relies too heavily on figures, such as the number of schools built or students enrolled, says the GAO, the watchdog for Congress.
Instead, the authors suggest that agencies look to “output measures, such as the numbers of U.S. programs designed to improve curriculum and teacher training, and to develop and validate student tests and outcome measures, such as literacy and numeracy assessments of student achievement.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 18, 2007 edition of Education Week as GAO Finds U.S. Agencies Can’t Keep Track of Programs Abroad