GAO Questions Assessment of Federal Technical Education Spending

July 30, 2009

The federal program that funds career and technical education gives states significant flexibility in evaluating how effectively they spend that money -- to the point that it is difficult for the U.S. Education Department to compare states and judge the nation's overall performance, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Wednesday. The GAO's review was designed to assess how states have implemented performance measures mandated by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 and how the federal government monitors what the states are doing. The report by Congress's investigative arm concludes that "differences in how states collect data for some performance measures may challenge Education’s ability to aggregate student outcomes at a national level and compare student outcomes on a state-by-state basis," and that the department has trouble comparing states because the law requires only that states discuss how they are evaluating their programs, rather than "report on the outcomes of their evaluations." "If policy makers are interested in obtaining information on state evaluations, they will need to weigh the benefits of Education obtaining this information with the burden of additional reporting requirements," the report says.

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