Ed Secretary Duncan proposes new accountability rules on grant money

In an effort to tighten up performance benchmarks that schools, districts and states may have to reach in exchange for federal funds, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has proposed a new rule that would increase accountability while also giving grant recipients some new flexibility in meeting the mandates.

The proposed rule, released this week for a 28-day public comment period, would be included in Part 75 of the Education Department General Administrative Regulations - also known as EDGAR.

As currently drafted, the rule would give the education secretary authority to demand more information from grantees including project-specific performance measures, baseline data and targets.

The reason for the proposal, the department said in a memo, is to improve the likelihood that the collection of data from a grant program effectively reflects the outcome.

Requiring this information improves the ability of the Department to measure program effectiveness under GPRA performance measures, clarifies that grantees will be required to report on their project-specific performance measures, and stresses that the extent to which grantees meet performance targets will be considered in making continuation grants," the memo said.

The proposal comes as Duncan and the Obama administration embark on a second term, where criticism over much of the education spending and program goals during the president's first four years in office remains an issue among many Congressional leaders. The decision of the administration to move forward with a waiver program to circumvent stalled negotiations over the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act has also stirred dissent from lawmakers of both parties.

There are also questions being raised about the effectiveness of some of the administration's highest profile grant programs - especially the Race to the Top competition and the Investing in Innovation Fund. The first rounds of both programs were funded with billions of dollars in stimulus money and now with many winners at the mid-point in their programs, many are also struggling to implement the new systems into the classroom.

According to the department, Proposed 75.110 would allow the secretary to establish performance measurement requirements in an application notice for a competition. These requirements could include performance measures, baseline data, performance targets, and performance data. This proposed section would also allow the Secretary to establish in an application notice a requirement that applicants propose performance measures for their projects, as well as the baseline data and performance targets for each proposed measure.

Also, the Secretary proposes to add a new 75.135 that would exempt certain applicants from the full competitive contracting requirements in 34 CFR 74.43 and 80.36(c).

Specifically, an applicant for a grant that must be conducted at multiple sites or that requires an external evaluation would not be required to comply with the applicable formal competition requirements in 34 CFR 74.43 and 80.36(c) when entering into a contract if:

(1) The contract is with an entity that agrees to provide a site or sites where the applicant would conduct the project activities under the grant or the contract is with the evaluation service provider that would conduct the project evaluation;

(2) The implementation sites, implementation partners, or evaluation service providers are identified in the application for the grant; and

(3) The implementation sites, implementation partners, or evaluation service providers are included in the application in order to meet a regulatory, statutory, or priority requirement related to the competition.

In this notice, the Secretary proposes amendments that would:

1. Allow the Secretary, in an application notice for a competition, to establish performance measurement requirements;

2. Revise requirements regarding project evaluations submitted to the Department by grantees;

3. Authorize applicants to use simplified procurement procedures to select implementation sites and procure services from implementation and evaluation service providers, but only if the site or service provider is named in the grant application;

4. Allow the Secretary, through an announcement in the Federal Register, to authorize grantees under particular programs to award subgrants to directly carry out programmatic activities. The subgrantees and programmatic activities must be identified and described in the grantees' applications;

5. Add one new selection criterion and revise two existing criteria that the department could choose to use to evaluate applications. The new criterion would be used to assess the extent to which a proposed project could be brought to scale. Five new factors to the criterion "Quality of the Project Evaluation" would be added that could be used to assess how well a proposed project evaluation would produce evidence about the project's effectiveness. Finally, one factor would be revised and five new ones added to the criterion "Quality of the Project Design;"

6. Authorize program offices to consider the effectiveness of proposed projects under a new priority that could be used as either an absolute, competitive preference, or invitational priority; and

7. Allow the Secretary to fund data collection periods after the end of the substantive work of a project so that project outcomes could be assessed using data from the entire project period.

For more information about the proposal as well as access to the comment portal visit:


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